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Taxing time

City tax collectors urge residents to use technology to make filing tax returns easier

(Published January 22, 2001)

By KRISTEN FORBES

Staff Writer

City officials say they want to take some of the fear and loathing out of the annual income tax filing season for D.C. residents.

"Advances in technology are enabling us to process tax returns faster, more accurately and to issue refunds in a number of days," said Deputy Chief Financial Officer Herbert J. Huff .

Among the kinds of conveniences being offered to city taxpayers this year are telephone or electronic filing, credit card payments and a "one-stop shop" service center where city workers will help residents fill out their tax forms for free.

Many city residents also are eligible this year to claim a new "earned income tax credit" on their D.C. income tax forms. The credit was designed to help low-income working families and "could provide taxpayers a refund even if they do not owe any tax," according to city tax officials, who are urging taxpayers to check their eligibility against a lengthy list of criteria. Taxpayers who are childless and earn up to $10,200, have one child and earn up to $26,928, or who have two or more children and earn up to $30,580 may qualify.

"It’s not just for families, but all people who work," said Huff.

Taxpayers may get more information about the tax credit, pick up tax forms and seek help resolving other tax-related issues at the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue’s customer service center. Located on the first floor at 941 North Capitol St. NE, the service center is open from 8:15 a.m. until 4:45 p.m. Monday through Friday. The center plans to extend its hours in the days immediately preceding the April 15 tax filing deadline.

Information also is available by calling the Customer Service Telephone Information Center at (202) 727-4TAX or visiting the Office of Tax and Revenue Web site at www.cfo.washingtondc.gov. Tax forms also are available online.

Residents who need help filling out their D.C. income tax forms may get free assistance by bringing their completed federal income tax return to the service center, where taxpayers will be assisted on a walk-in basis, officials said In addition to their completed federal tax return, taxpayers seeking this assistance need to bring their W-2 forms with them.

Single residents with no dependents who earn less than $100,000 annually may qualify to use the new touchtone TeleFile service. This service is free and can be accessed by calling 1-800-743-3320. For more information, taxpayers interested in using TeleFile can also refer to instructions in the D-40 tax booklet.

Huff said he expects the city’s electronic filing program to maintain its high level of efficiency as the program expands this year. About 35,000 tax returns are expected to be filed electronically this year, he said.

"About one-ninth of D.C. residents file electronically, and our goal is to have that at more than 80 percent by 2007," Huff said.

Residents may file their tax returns electronically either through a paid tax preparer or from their home computer by using a commercial online filing service for a fee. More information is available online at www.cfo.washingtondc.gov. Taxpayers who earn less than $20,000 annually may be eligible to file electronically for free through The Quicken Tax Freedom Project, which requires use of the Quicken software system.

Taxpayers also can call a toll-free 24-hour number seven days a week to pay their taxes by credit card. Upon receipt, the credit card transaction is immediately applied to the taxpayer’s account. The fees for this service vary, and more information is available by calling 1-888-2PAY-TAX.

Huff’s advice to those who still cringe at the thought of paying taxes is that they should "make sure you file even if you don’t have the ability to pay. We will work out installment arrangements with you."

Copyright © 2001 The Common Denominator