By HILLARY GAVAN
Senior staff writer
BELOIT — Area tax preparers have been swamped with business this week as filers work to get their questions answered and returns filed.
Because of an effort to crack down on tax fraud, the IRS is making it more challenging for people to receive earned income, child tax and education credits, according to Sindy Potuznik, owner of Advance Tax Services LLC, 1327 Townline Ave.
In Wisconsin, she said it's mandatory this year that a client present a driver's license or state ID in order to obtain the additional child tax credit as well as earned income credit and education credit. If clients don't, it will delay the filing by 12 to 16 weeks.
Potuznik also noted this year people won't be able to claim energy credits.
She, along with other tax offices, have heard from more clients reporting incidents of identity theft and IRS phone scams throughout the year. People are advised to write the telephone number down of anyone calling claiming to be with the IRS and to report it to police.
The IRS initiates most contacts through regular mail delivered by the U.S. Postal Service. In certain circumstances the IRS could come to a home or business in person, but it would be preceded by multiple letters in the mail. The IRS officials also will present two forms of official credentials called a pocket commission and a HSPD-12 card, according to the IRS website, irs.gov.
Although there could be some delays in receiving refunds, at Advance Tax Services people can apply for a $2,500 easy advance loan if they can't wait for their federal refund.
Potuznik said she's heard from a lot of people concerned about the recently adopted Republican tax plan, but she noted it won't take effect until next income tax filing season.
She said the tax bill to be used next year will result in major tax breaks for middle income and lower classes.
"Good things are going to happen next year for taxes," she added.
Liberty Tax Supervisor Santia Clark, 421 E. Grand Ave., said the most common questions are regarding the PATH Act (Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015).
It was enacted into law on Dec. 18, 2015, and contains changes to the tax law which help safeguard against tax fraud, according to irs.gov.
Because of the PATH Act, Clark said the IRS is holding onto tax returns until Feb. 28, longer than last year’s date of Feb. 15. It affects tax returns with earned income credit, the American opportunity credit and the child tax credit. Clark noted Liberty Tax Service has offered an easy advance loan with no interest or fees up to $3,250 to help people get their returns more quickly.
Clark said she also gets a lot of inquiries regarding the government shutdown, although she stressed it didn’t cause any issues in regards to refunds.
Grinnell Hall Senior Center is offering free tax preparation courtesy of AARP volunteers beginning on Monday, Feb. 5. It will be each week on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 8:30 a.m. to noon. It's by appointment only. To make appointment people should call Grinnell at 608-364-2875.