Thanks to a "perfect storm" of roadblocks this year, tax season is getting off to a rockier start than usual, the Sacramento Bee's Claudia Buck reports.
For starters, the endless debates over the Fiscal Cliff stalled tax season by a full eight days. As a result, people who are looking to claim tax credits for things like energy, depreciation of property, and business expenses may have to wait until March to file while new tax laws kick in.
And, as Buck notes, another factor slowing down returns is the IRS itself. The agency is scrutinizing returns more than ever in order to clamp down on rampant tax fraud.
Despite all it has working against it, the IRS says it still expects to issue refunds within 21 days of filing for most filers.
Even so, there are actionable ways consumers can ensure they get their refunds as quickly as possible.
How to get your tax refund faster
Sign up for direct deposit. Tax refunds could show up as soon as a week after filing if you sign up to have them deposited electronically into your bank account. Otherwise, get ready to wait three times longer for a check in the mail.
File electronically. If you're still writing tax return forms by hand, you're practically begging for either a delayed return, an IRS audit, or any number of human errors that could muck up your refund. There are free tax filing services available for filers earning less than $57,000.
Vet your tax preparer. Tax fraudsters continue running amok in the U.S., and February and March are high season for those looking to cash in on unsuspecting consumers. If you're using a professional tax preparer this year for the first time, do your due diligence first. True tax preparers should have a Preparer Tax Identification Number, which is issued by the IRS. The IRS keeps an approved list of tax preparers available online (just put in your zip code). Otherwise, be sure you know the warning signs of a crook.
Follow your money online. The IRS has a handy tool taxpayers can use to track their refunds online after their returns have been filed: Where's My Refund? Apparently people love the thing, because so many filers were checking it in mid-February that it crashed, according to Buck. It won't do you any good to check more than once per day, however, since your status is only updated that often.
Check your numbers –– twice. Simple errors like incorrect Social Security Numbers, mailing addresses, birth dates and bank information can spell trouble for your tax refund. Get them right ... and then check again to be double-sure.
Don't wait for your W-2 to show up. If you haven't gotten your W-2 form yet, don't sit around and wait for it to show up. Either contact your employer or let the IRS know you need an extra copy (Phone:1-800-829-1040).
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