Metro-East News

Here’s how to avoid scammers during tax season

The tax season officially kicked off Monday as the IRS began processing federal individual income tax returns and the agency warned taxpayers to watch out for scams.

Scammers are notorious during tax season. Officials say there are very few circumstances in which the IRS will call or come to a home or business, and even then, such a visit would be preceded by several notices via mail.

IRS guidelines to avoid scams indicated that the IRS will never:

▪ Call to demand immediate payment, especially via a wire transfer or prepaid debit card. A paper bill will be mailed to any taxpayer who owes taxes.

▪ Demand that the taxpayer pay without the opportunity to question or appeal. Click here to view your rights as a taxpayer.

▪ Threaten to bring in local police, immigration officers or other law enforcement; revoke a driver’s license, business license or immigration status.

▪ Fail to provide official credentials in the form of a pocket commission and HSPD-12 card, a government standard for employees and contractors, in the case of a personal visit. No one making a personal visit will demand immediate payment, especially to a source other than the U.S. Treasury.

Scammers often may have extensive information about a person, and the caller ID on your phone may actually show a local law enforcement agency or similar official-appearing name.

Ordinarily people have to file their taxes on or before April 15, which falls on a Sunday this year. And since Monday, April 16 is Emancipation Day, the deadline is extended to Tuesday, April 17.

Likewise, the deadline is extended for the state of Illinois. If someone needs more time, filing for an extension can give a taxpayer until Oct. 15 to file.

More than 70 percent of taxpayers will receive tax refunds this year, with an average refund of $2,895 in 2017, according to the IRS. Approximately 90 percent of returns are filed electronically, and can be filed for free at for those making less than $66,000 a year.

More than 70 percent of taxpayers will receive tax refunds this year, with an average refund of $2,895 in 2017.

More than 90 percent of refunds are processed in less than 21 days. However, refunds for people who claim the Earned Income Tax Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit will begin Feb. 27, according to the IRS.

If you need tax help and can’t afford an accountant or tax preparation firm, free assistance with tax returns is offered to people making less than $54,000 a year, as well as people with disabilities or limited English proficiency. Locations for this assistance include:

▪ Glen Carbon Centennial Library, 4:30-7 p.m. Wednesdays from Jan. 31 to March 28

▪ GCS Credit Union in Granite City, by appointment, Jan. 30 to March 29

▪ Alton Area Tax Project at GECC in Godfrey; 5:30-8 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays Jan. 27-April 14

▪ Mt. Pisgah Missionary Baptist Church in East St. Louis, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 3-March 17

▪ MCTC Cornerstone Christian Church in Shiloh, by appointment, Jan. 27-April 7

People can visit the IRS web site for more information.

Elizabeth Donald: 618-239-2507, @BNDedonald