Nobody really likes tax season. It’s a stressful time for most Americans. Between deadlines, changes in forms and filing, and often confusing procedures, taxes can be a burden on even the most financially-conscious among us – by Julie Morris, reprinted by permission
This is especially true of seniors. Tax season can provide plenty of stressful money moments. Here are some basic tips for seniors to make tax season as stress-free as possible.
Know about the scams
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For whatever reason, seniors tend to be the most vulnerable to tax scams. Getting a call or email from someone saying they are with the IRS, demanding compliance, can be incredibly stressful. It’s important to be aware of the types of scams that are out there, so you can identify them and protect yourself if you happen to be the target.
The first rule of thumb is that any supposed IRS communication with email, text, or social media is fake and should be reported as fraud. THe IRS does not contact people through these channels.
The most common scam is a phone scam, in which a criminal bullies a person into paying the “IRS” money via wire transfer or pre-loaded debit card. The most common targets of such scams are immigrants and the elderly.
Here’s how the IRS describes the scam:
Callers claim to be employees of the IRS, but are not. These con artists can sound convincing when they call. They use fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. They may know a lot about their targets, and they usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling.
Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, they are then threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting. Or, victims may be told they have a refund due to try to trick them into sharing private information. If the phone isn’t answered, the scammers often leave an “urgent” callback request.
A good tip is to read the IRS’ official pages on tax scams. Familiarize yourself with what con artists are up to these days. Be informed.
Know about your deductions, credits, and how to properly deal with social security benefits
“While it’s true that Social Security income is generally not taxable, that’s not true in all cases. If you have income in addition to your benefits, you may have to file a return even if none of your benefits are taxable,” says AOL Finance.
Depending on additional income, seniors can have different social security filings. There isn’t a blanket amount for all. You need to know how to handle your specific situation. You may also qualify for a higher standard deduction, or one of a few credits like the credit for the elderly or disabled or the making work pay credit. Consult the IRS for more information on these.
Know where you can get some help
Many seniors are perfectly capable of wading the tax waters themselves – but if you need help, it’s important to know that it exists. Organizations like The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) offers free tax help to people who generally make $54,000 or less and persons with disabilities. The Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program offers free tax help for all taxpayers, 60 and older.
The AARP also offers Tax-Aide, a free program for low-to moderate-income taxpayers 50 and older. You can find a location near you here.
There are plenty of computer programs out there as well, including options for W-2 software and 1099 software if you need that sort of thing.
Share this with mom and dad, grandma and grampa – or anyone needing it – thanks.
Julie Morris is a life and career coach @ Juliemorris.org