2024 Federal Tax Filing Season: What You Need to Know

Posted on: March 25, 2024


You can now file your federal and state income tax returns for 2023. Here's what you should know:

The state of Louisiana does not regulate tax preparers.

If you need a tax preparer, choose carefully. Some tax preparers will put false information on your return to get more money from your refund. You are responsible for what is on your tax return, even if someone else prepares it.

Take steps to protect yourself.

Review the return and ask questions if you need help understanding an entry.

If the IRS audits your return, you will be responsible for paying back any refunds you should not have received, not the preparer.  Putting false information on a return is also a crime.  If the IRS chooses to pursue criminal charges, you may face large criminal fines or jail time.

The most common information that is falsified on returns is:

The number of dependents living in your household.

A dependent must be a minor or permanently disabled to be claimed for the Earned Income Tax Credit.  The dependent must also have lived in your household for most of the year.  The IRS may ask for medical and school records to show that a dependent lived at your address.

Income the taxpayer did not earn.

This is usually income from self-employment. The IRS may ask for bank statements to prove your income.

Business expenses that the taxpayer did not actually pay.

The IRS may ask for business records, receipts, or canceled checks to show you paid the expenses.

False transportation expenses.

The newest scam in the New Orleans area is to claim that a taxpayer has a transportation business and then ask for a refund based on a large amount of fuel used for the business.  The IRS easily flags these returns since they usually state that the taxpayer used a ridiculous amount of fuel during the year, and the necessary information about the fleet of vehicles is not provided.

It is a bad sign if the tax preparer does any of the following things:

  • Asks you to sign authorization to file a return before you see the actual return. They should not ask you to sign a partially completed or blank return.
  • Does not ask you for tax documents such as W-2s, 1099s, or business records
  • Will not sign the return or does not have authorization to file electronic returns under their name.

How can you choose a good tax preparer?

Do your research.

Do an online search on the company or preparer to see if there are any reviews of their work.  You can also check the Better Business Bureau website to see if any complaints have been filed against the company or person.

Search the IRS website.

The IRS website, www.irs.gov, has a list of preparers who have authorization to file tax returns electronically.

Use a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA Program).

The VITA provides return preparation services for low to moderate-income people.  These are tax professionals who volunteer their time.  Call 1-800-906-9887 for information about VITA programs in your area.

Here are some other common tax issues to look out for.

Public Benefits

If you receive public benefits such as a housing voucher, the agency may request copies of your tax returns.

If you listed income on the return that was not reported to the agency, you may lose your housing voucher or be asked to pay back benefits that you received.  This is another reason to check your return carefully.

Pandemic Stimulus Checks

If you did not receive the pandemic stimulus funds or the larger child tax credits issued in 2020 and 2021, you can request those credits by filing a 2020 and/or 2021 federal tax return and asking for the funds as a refund.

Taxpayers only have three years from the due date of a return to request a refund, so April 15, 2024, will be the last date to request the pandemic funds for 2020.

Where else can I get help with my tax problem:

Southeast Louisiana Legal Services has a Tax Clinic called the Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC).  We provide free legal representation for people who have a dispute with the IRS. We can help:

  • People who owe federal tax liability they cannot repay.
  • People whose returns are being audited.
  • People who need to file for Injured or Innocent Spouse relief.
  • People have been the victims of ID theft with the IRS.

We help people throughout Louisiana, not just the New Orleans area. To apply for services, call Lynnette Tillis (877) 521-6242, ext. 225 (toll-free), or apply on our website, slls.org.

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