This will be the first year that changes to federal tax code will affect filing taxes, and as West Virginians prepare for the April 15 deadline, Matt Irby, director of tax account administration at the state Tax Department, has some tips.
Notably different in the new tax code: Individual exemptions are gone, meaning filers will not get deductions for each person in their household and standard deductions for single and joint filers have risen, up to $12,000 for the former and $24,000 for the latter.
Most people, Irby said, will be filing their taxes electronically, through services like TurboTax, while others will take them to an accountant or business like H&R Block.
No matter how people choose to file their taxes, they should be sure to have all the necessary paperwork on hand: W-2 forms, 1099 forms, income statements and any proof needed for write-offs.
“If you know you have an income from somewhere, find the income statement,” Irby said. “Some people will file their returns before they receive their income statements because they forget the few weeks they worked for some company, and that can mess up a lot of things.”
Irby said he commonly hears that the tax process can be overwhelming and confusing for first-time filers. He recommended visiting a tax preparer if that’s the case, and said most online filing programs are proficient at making the process as easy as possible through straightforward instructions and questions.
Those looking for a little additional assistance can find a list of approved providers at http://tax.wv.gov.
Obviously the most anticipated aspect of tax season is the tax refund — “who doesn’t like getting a little bit of money back?” Irby asked.
Irby said those who file their taxes earlier will receive their refunds earlier.
“For most people it will take just a few weeks, so if you want that now, file sooner,” Irby said.
Irby said those filing for a refund tend to do so earlier, and those who end up owing money tend to file later.
While 85 percent of filers will receive their returns in a couple of weeks, the last 15 percent may take a bit longer. Usually, this is because the Tax Department has to review the filings. There may be paperwork missing, inconsistent information or something else that causes a flag.
“We have to be safe and make sure there’s no fraud, that we don’t have to file a fraud report,” Irby said. “Due to the time and work involved, it may take a bit longer to move that filing through the queue.”
People shouldn’t be concerned if it takes a few weeks, or sometimes a few months, to receive their refund, Irby said. If the 12-week mark comes up, though, and they haven’t been contacted by the tax office, they should call the tax office or visit West Virginia’s MyTaxes site to check the status of their filing online.
“If it says ‘processing,’ then they’re fine,” Irby said. “No need to worry there.”
Irby said the West Virginia Tax Department is no longer able to offer walk-in services for tax filings due to budget cuts, but those looking for help or resources are free to call the office or check the website for any help they may need.
There are also free filing programs for low-income individuals, or those needing low-cost assistance, like the Voluntary Income Tax Association.
“Really, there’s a lot of information out there to help people,” Irby said. “If you get stuck, the best thing to do is reach out and just ask someone for help.”