Editorial: Month to go, but not all is gloomy

Mar. 11, 2013 @ 09:38 PM

Friday will mark the 15th of the month. A good number of us are glad it is still March, and not April.

That’s right, there’s still a month to go before what is commonly known as Tax Day.

We have some advice to take some of the daunting headaches out. And we join with the state attorney general warning against a couple of bad practices.

Starting early gives the opportunity to plan if money is owed, or to get money back quicker if due a refund.

More importantly, be careful of the ways of filing. Money could be unnecessarily lost in the process.

Refund anticipation loans, known as RALs, have mostly been stopped by recent federal regulations. These were short-term, high interest loans.

Unfortunately, they’ve been replaced in some cases by refund anticipation checks, known as RACs. Taxpayers without a bank account for direct deposit, or who don’t have money for tax preparation services, are usually the targets.

Consumers should beware. And don’t fall for the “rapid refund” jingles.

When filing electronically and using direct deposit, if ahead of the procrastinators, it is possible to receive federal and state money in less than two weeks. That’s pretty rapid.

As we inch closer to April 15, more filers mean potentially longer waits for refunds. Even if without a direct deposit avenue, checks come in the mail in not much more than two weeks.

There are also multiple services that can help, including Free File Alliance when going online to irs.gov, where information on Earned Income Tax Credit is also available. Volunteer Income Tax Assistance is for low- and middle-income consumers, and it is free. Call (800) 906-9887 for the nearest site. And in our state, the State Employees Credit Union as well as the Local Government Federal Credit Union offers free help through VITA for families earning less than $51,000.

April 15 doesn’t have to be filled with dread, doom and gloom. Be smart, get ahead and protect your money.