Tax Filing Time

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Tax season is upon us. Get the latest information on filing you taxes from IRS Arizona spokesman Bill Brunson and Anthony Forschino of the Arizona Department of Revenue.

Ted Simons: Tax filing season, which means it's time to check with the IRS and the State Department of Revenue to see about changes to tax law and filing procedures. Here with the latest information is IRS Arizona spokesman Bill Brunson and Anthony Forschino with the Arizona Department of Revenue. Good to see you both back here, as we do about every time this year. We can't avoid it.

Bill Brunson: It's good, Ted, to come back and talk a little tax.

Ted Simons: Tax filing tips.

Bill Brunson: Pretty much the same as last year due to the extender act in December carrying everything forward. People do have the Affordable Care Act this year. If any time would be the best time to file electronically it would be this year due to complexities that may pose themselves on a return with the Affordable Care Act. 83% of all Arizonans are going to electronically file and you should be one of them.

Ted Simons: 83% and that number keeps going up?

Bill Brunson: It keeps going up, nationwide it's about 85%. Your electronically filed tax return is fast, accurate, secure, truly the way to go. It saves the federal government money and saves your tax dollars. You can file online at IRS.gov by clicking on the free file icon. I think you have the same thing at the state, Anthony?

Anthony Forschino: We do. Pretty much the same, E-file is the best because of the fact that our processing -- it processes the tax return quicker. Especially if you're going to get a refund, you'll get it quicker. Because it's going to process a lot quicker.

Ted Simons: Are you seeing the same kind of increases at the state level that we're seeing federally?

Anthony Forschino: About the same, about 80% probably this year.

Ted Simons: Are there changes in state forms this year?

Anthony Forschino: There are changes in the sense of the way we put it together. In the past it has been all crammed onto the front page. We've gotten to the font of .4. We've cleaned it up and made it flow better. We're -- as you go you do have to go to the second page and bring things forward. We've made it cleaner to file.

Ted Simons: On the federal level, any of those kinds of changes we need to know about?

Bill Brunson: Not really, Ted. People do need to know there are a couple tax scams out there where the individual receives a phone call unsolicited and the caller says they work for the Internal Revenue Service, that you owe tax and need to pay that tax today. You need to pay it with a wire transfer or a direct debit. If you don't, they will send out the Police Department. Folks need to know if they do owe tax they are going get a bill in the mail first. The Internal Revenue Service is not going threaten you and have you rights as a taxpayer where you can contest the amount owed. If you get one of these phone calls, hang up on them. Don't engage. And then let the treasury inspector general for tax know about it. They are tracking this item.

Ted Simons: If you get a phone call from the IRS -- unless I have a relationship with the IRS that goes above filing my return, should I just never expect a phone call?

Bill Brunson: Basically that's correct. An individual will know if they have an ongoing situation and they may receive a call from a revenue agent or some sort of tax collect are revenue officer. If that's not the case this call out of the blue, you shouldn't -- that should be sending flags and bells and do not go there, hang up, don't engage.

Ted Simons: Scams, fraud, what are we seeing at the state level?

Anthony Forschino: We're seeing a lot of fraud like every year and it continues to grow. We caught $73 million last year. We're finding a lot of people are creating tax returns for people who are from other states and filing here in Arizona or all over the country, filing tax returns for that person. That person will never know. If we stole your identity and filed in New York you would never know.

Ted Simons: What does someone do if someone files a phony tax return with your name and Social Security number, what do you do?

Anthony Forschino: You really can't do much because you may not know about it. We, at least at the department, are working with all the states with a lot of the IRS data, and we're putting our criteria in and catching them and stopping them before they get out the door.

Ted Simons: Is there something you can do?

Bill Brunson: Tax related I.D. theft, we have a special unit where you can deal directly with those folks. We'll give you a special number you can use to file and that truncates the ability for the crooks to use your Social Security number to get by the system. So there are procedures in place and we've been working this, where it takes about four months to find out who the actual taxpayer is. Unfortunately, you, the taxpayer may find out there's been identity theft by getting that letter in the mail from the IRS asking why you're submitting a second return.

Ted Simons: Yeah, oh, my goodness. Customer fraud -- is that kind of the one stop shopping, the website?

Bill Brunson: We're telling folks to go there, you can get everything you need from IRS.gov 24/7. If you want to check on a refund, make a payment, if you want a tax question answered. The phone lines are harder to get through this year, at this time of year. We do have waiting lines in front of our offices. But there is a bright side to the office issue, where we are now testing appointments in some areas, not here in Arizona but other areas, and it's worked rather well. A person can call ahead, set up a special time, show up and get their issue resolved.

Ted Simons: We had a viewer complain about the State Department of revenue and how they call up and they are told everyone's busy, try again sometimes. That's it. There's nothing else left.

Anthony Forschino: That's what we're getting. Again, the fact that there are so many phone calls and not enough people to answer them. We are working on a new phone system which may hopefully and may not happen for this tax year but it would allow somebody to leave and message and we'll get back with them. That helps instead of just hanging up on them.

Ted Simons: Is there a website?

Anthony Forschino: We can go to our website and we have as much information and we're continuing to build our website more and more as we go to try to get that.

Ted Simons: One more question, a form 301.

Anthony Forschino: It's a tax credit. In the past you could put certain tax credits on the front of your tax return. This year we're saying you need to file the 301, all of the tax credits, and bring the number forward. We are looking at those this year to make sure people filing for tax credits are actually taking the proper credits.

Ted Simons: And that's different from last year?

Anthony Forschino: Yes.

Ted Simons: Any other differences we need to know about?

Anthony Forschino: Not major difference except for the change in the way the form looks.

Ted Simons: As far as the website and stuff, does this mean -- used to be you'd go to the library and get all sorts of tax information there. Is that starting to wane a little bit?

Bill Brunson: That's always been a program where the particular program or manager has wanted those items for their clients. But folks can go to IRS.gov and get that form or request an extension to file online at no charge. There's a whole host of different things they can do online through IRS.gov.

Ted Simons: As far as refunds, I was surprised to learn a lot of folks don't collect their refunds. What's that all about?

Bill Brunson: 2011 individuals that haven't filed need to, because if they don't by April 15th of this year the statutory period runs out. They won't have the ability to file and claim that refund. If you haven't filed for 2011, you need to submit the paperwork. You can get the 2011 forms and information from the Internal Revenue Service at no charge. That would be the returns to 1099s, W-2s. You can't wait, you've got to work on it.

Ted Simons: Conversely on the state level, you owe more than you can pay, you just can't pay it. What do you do?

Anthony Forschino: We have a great collections unit that actually you can call, get in, get on the payment program and we're really helpful as to looking at hard case, what it needs, what you can afford. We don't want you to not pay and we don't want you to be hurt trying to pay.

Ted Simons: Great information as always. We'll see how it works out and we'll see you sometime before next year, I guess.

Bill Brunson: Thanks for having us on. 21 days for a refund from the IRS. How many for you guys, Anthony?

Anthony Forschino: It's about two weeks.

Bill Brunson: Wow.

Ted Simons: Alright, wow is right. Thanks a lot, appreciate it.

Bill Brunson: Thank you.

Bill Brunson:Spokesman, IRS; Anthony Forschino:Spokesman, Arizona Department of Revenue;

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