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  • Tax rebates going out early

    Update: Don’t Mess With Taxes has a different revised schedule, with direct deposit rebates being completed on May 12.

    Thanks to Living Almost Large for letting me know that I can expect to get my tax rebate early. According to this MSN article, direct deposit rebates will start going out on Monday (four days earlier than the original schedule). What’s more, all direct deposit rebates are expected to be completed by next Friday, May 2 (the day they were supposed to start).

    Tax rebates being sent by mail will start going out on May 9, a week earlier than originally scheduled. But the completion date for mailed rebates remains the same (July 11).

    3 Signs You May be a Victim of Tax-Related Fraud

    The following is a guest post from ID theft expert Brian Lapidus, chief operating officer of Kroll’s Fraud Solutions.


    1. You are unable to file your return electronically, because a prior return included your SSN.

    Take Action:

    Submit your return by paper and include proof of SSN ownership (i.e., a registered letter from the Social Security Administration).

    2. You have received a W2 or 1099 form from a company with whom you have never been employed nor had a financial relationship.

    Take action:

    Contact the company in question by phone, with a follow-up letter, to request a corrected W2 or 1099, maintaining call notes and copies of all related documentation. If receipt of document was not due to an error by reporting company, file a police report.

    Maintain records until you receive a notice from the IRS.

    3. You received a notice from the IRS advising you of unclaimed wages or income.

    Take action:

    Contact the assigned IRS agent listed on the notification. He/she will work with you to ensure that you are not held liable for any fraud-related or errant wages/earnings.

    If you do not notify the IRS of a dispute, the IRS will assume the reporting is accurate. As a result, the wages/income will be processed and the IRS will send you a bill. Continued failure to notify the IRS can result in wage garnishment or tax levies.

    Follow all instructions and provide all information or documentation to the assigned IRS agent, as requested.

    Human accountant vs. Tax prep software

    Judging from comments I’ve gotten when I’ve mentioned my accountant, I’m not the only one who wonders whether paying a substantial fee to have another human prepare my tax returns is worth it, especially in this day and age of tax prep software. Gina over at Lifehacker wondered the same thing. Only this year she used both to do a side by side comparison.

    It turns out that TurboTax came up with a smaller total of tax owed, but her accountant caught a mistake by one of her employers that TurboTax didn’t (apparently it didn’t affect the amount owed, though). And she doesn’t know yet why TurboTax reached a different result.

    The best thing about Gina’s report, at least for me, was this sentence:

    There are always questions inside TurboTax that you respond to with just a tinge of doubt, and just a few of those can mount into a larger sense of uncertainty.

    It’s precisely this feeling that causes me to pay between $500 and $1000 to have my tax returns prepared for me. (Did that number make you cringe? Me too. I haven’t received my bill for this year yet, and I’m praying it’s on the lower end of that range.)

    So I guess whether you should hire a human accountant comes down, at least to some degree, to your risk tolerance. Mine is fairly low – primarily because of the potential consequences (all of my hair would probably turn white if I received an audit notice and I wasn’t sure I’d done everything right). So I’ll stick with an accountant for the foreseeable future.

    What about you? Do you think it’s worth paying an accountant?

    Calculating my non-cash charitable contributions – and trying something new in 2008

    I am nearly done with the tax organizer that our accountant sent us. There are only two things left to do, and I am waiting to hear back from our accountant before I do one of them. I’m dreading the other thing, however – namely, calculating our non-cash charitable contributions.

    I’ve written before about how I log every item donated before it goes into a bag and out the door. Unfortunately, knowing what I donated and putting a dollar value on it are not the same thing. And over the course of a year, we donate hundreds, if not thousands, of items. I have a long list of shirts, pants, books, kitchen goods, and other items that we donated throughout the year. Now I have to give everything a fair market value, and add it all up. Ugh!

    An anonymous comment on last year’s post recommended DeductionTraQ, a free service for tracking donations. It apparently uses eBay sales prices to determine FMV. I’m going to give it a try for 2008 – I’m hoping it will be a gift to my future self (i.e., the self who will be in exactly the same position one year from today).

    In the meantime, I have no choice but to go through all the receipts and lists and draw up a list for our accountant (some of it is done, otherwise I would try DeductionTraQ right now). The good news is, we donated more than ever this year, so we’ll be getting a nice deduction when it’s all done.

    An open plea to the neighbors who ended up with our mail: please return it, pronto!

    I feel bad for J.D. of Get Rich Slowly – a couple of days ago, someone stole some mail from his mailbox. Unfortunately, I can relate only too well to how he’s feeling. You see, sometime last week, our mail carrier put our tax organizer package sent by our accountant in one of neighbor’s mailboxes.

    At least, I’m surmising that’s what happened to the package (I’ll call it a package but it’s really a thick envelope). I know it was sent out on the 5th and that it hasn’t arrived yet. I’ve double checked with our accountant to make sure they sent it to the right address. Our mailbox is in a communal area, and apparently the mail hasn’t been delivered by our regular carrier lately since there have been lots of envelopes left out for the rightful addressee.

    Normally, I wouldn’t worry so much, but the package apparently contains one document that lists our social security numbers. I’m not sure why the accountant sent the package to our house since they have our PO Box on file too. Of course, as I’ve mentioned, we haven’t been impressed by the woman who took over from our last accountant. It’s looking more and more like we’ll be looking for someone else to handle our accounting matters for us next year.

    In the meantime, I want to say to the neighbors who ended up with our mail:

    I don’t want to believe that one of our neighbors would commit identity theft. I want to believe that you’ve simply thrown your mail into a pile and not sorted through it yet, and haven’t realized that you’re sitting on something important to us. Please return the package to us, unopened, so that I don’t have to worry for eternity that our social security numbers are out there for some enterprising unethical thief to have wreak havoc with. Let me also say, in the nicest way possible, that if you do decide to engage in criminal behavior with the information in that package, I will do everything I can to see that you are prosecuted and sent to jail. So please, just return the *$(& package!

    Update: I’m feeling a little foolish now. The package postmarked February 5 arrived today, several hours after I published this post. I don’t understand why it takes the USPS 10 days to deliver something from Santa Monica, but I’m very relieved to know that our social security numbers aren’t compromised. Whew!