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Tax season may be less taxing this year



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January 14, 2014 | 01:50 PM
It’s that time of year again – tax season. Depending on the situation, people either eagerly anticipate a healthy refund, or bemoan the need to pay more taxes. For years, tax time was a headache for many, but with its on-line filing program, the Wisconsin Department of Revenue (DOR) has made tax season a lot easier.

Beginning Jan. 13, Wisconsin residents can start filing their taxes online with the Wisconsin e-file system, while electronic filing for federal tax returns begins Jan. 31.

E-file is a quick, accurate, and safe way for residents to submit their state tax returns, and all information submitted is completely confidential. E-file even offers fill-in tax forms that do the math based on the information filled in each line to help users calculate their tax return and to prevent any errors. The best part is that this service is totally free!

When you e-file, the DOR will send you a message to confirm that your return has been received and is being processed. Typical processing times are about one week for e-filed returns, while paper returns may take up to twelve weeks.

If you are due a refund, you will receive it faster by e-filing, and many receive a refund in their bank accounts within a few days when they use direct deposit.

For more information on Wisconsin’s e-file system, or to access the program, visit the DOR Web site at http://www.revenue.wi.gov/.

If you wish to check the status of your refund, there’s now an app for that. The DOR free mobile app is available for both Apple and Android devices, which may be downloaded in the Apple and Google Play stores. The app allows individuals to check on their tax refund status, look up estimated payments, and obtain information on free tax assistance.

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For those in need of help with their taxes, Wisconsin has two free programs – the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program and the Tax Counseling for the Elderly/Tax-Aide (TCE) program. These programs help seniors, lower-income taxpayers, veterans and military personnel with free tax preparation services at more than 200 sites across the state.

The VITA Program provides free tax service to those earning $50,000 or less and who need assistance preparing their tax returns. The TCE Program offers free tax help for everyone, with priority assistance to people who are 60 years of age or older, and specializes in questions about pensions and retirement issues unique to seniors.

More than 60,000 people received help during the last tax season, and more information is available at http://www.revenue.wi.gov/vita/index.html.

DOR is also looking for volunteers for the VITA and TCE programs. Volunteering is a great way to make a difference in your community, and may be especially appealing to those with a background in accounting, finance, or economics.

Volunteers receive federal and state tax law training, which usually takes place in January and February. For information about volunteering with the VITA or TCE programs, call 608-266-2772.

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While taxes are never enjoyable, they fund many important areas, including public education, medical assistance, corrections, local assistance, and the University of Wisconsin System. For this tax season, taxpayers should hopefully have something to smile about with the tax reductions enacted in 2013.

The state budget includes nearly $1 billion in tax relief, including an income tax cut of more than $650 million, one of the largest tax cuts in state history. As a result, most state income taxpayers will receive an income tax reduction, reflected in their tax returns for both this year and next year. That is a good start, but we can and should do more to make each and every tax season less taxing.

Senator Kedzie can be reached in Madison at P.O. Box 7882, Madison, WI 53707-7882 or by calling toll-free 1 (800) 578-1457. He may be reached in the district at (262) 742-2025 or online at www.senatorkedzie.com

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