By Wayne Johnson, Coordinator of Client Services in Salinas
If you are new to having a job, don’t forget you may need to file a Tax Return on or before April 15th. If you have made the switch from living on SSI or other benefits to earning a pay check, it is likely that you will need to file a tax return. A tax return shows how much money you made in the previous year, what personal or business expenses you had that can be deducted from the amount of taxes you owe and how much you owe in taxes or how much of a refund you have coming for taxes already deducted from your paycheck.
Failure to file a tax return and pay your taxes on time can lead to fines, and the IRS will come after you to pay those. So postponing getting your tax return done and any taxes you owe paid can cost you a lot of money.
The good news is that your employer (most likely) has been deducting taxes from your paychecks, so you may not have to pay any additional taxes or the IRS now may owe you a refund for overpaid taxes deducted from your paycheck. So getting that tax return in on time can put money in your pocket.
If you know what you are doing and understand tax law—which most of us don’t—you can prepare your own tax return. You can also choose to use computer based software that helps you do your taxes or go to a tax preparation service or accountant. The IRS’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offers free tax help to people who generally make $54,000 or less, persons with disabilities and limited English speaking taxpayers who need assistance in preparing their own tax returns. Some local community groups provide free tax preparation if you qualify under VITA.
Things like medical expenses, costs relating to your dependents, work-related expenses that you are not reimbursed for and donations you may have made to 501(c)(3) nonprofit agencies like DHHSC can be deducted. These deductions will usually lower the amount of taxes you are required to pay.
Tax returns are very important to be completed correctly. This is a place where relying on a friend or family member to do it for you can get you in a lot of trouble if they make a mistake. Keep this in mind before turning your tax work over to anyone, unless you are positive they really know what they are doing.
Don’t forget you not only must complete a Federal Tax Return, but you must also complete one for each state you lived in during the tax year also. So if you lived in Nevada for part of the year and then moved to California, you will need to file a State income tax return for both Nevada and California.