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File tax return online for faster refund, rebate

Still haven't filed your income tax return? You have plenty of company, but only until April 15 to get right with the IRS.

This year there's an extra incentive to file on time: The IRS has a rebate waiting for most filers, a present from a Congress anxious to stimulate the flagging economy. If you're late, your rebate will be delayed.

Electronic filing is the way to go if you have Internet access. In addition to being faster, it's a lot more accurate. It's also free if your income is $54,000 or less; you can use the Free File service at irs.gov.

Whether filing online or on paper, avoid problems by double-checking Social Security numbers and the numbers you enter from W-2 and 1099 forms. Something new this year: You need a receipt or canceled check to deduct a charitable contribution. Sign up for direct deposit and you'll speed both your refund and your rebate, which could arrive as early as next month.

I don't make much money. Do I still need to file a tax return?

Yes, if you want a refund or rebate. If you had any taxes withheld from your pay, you need to file to get the money back. In addition, by filing, you may be eligible for the rebate or the earned income credit.

Who qualifies for the rebate?

Most people who pay taxes or have at least $3,000 in qualifying income (wages, Social Security payments or Veterans Affairs disability payments). Couples who file jointly need only $3,000 between them. There's no rebate for anyone 17 or older who is claimed as a dependent on someone else's return. Rebates also are phased out at higher income levels ($75,000 for singles and $150,000 for joint returns).

How much will my rebate be?

Between $300 and $600 if you are single or between $600 and $1,200 if you are married filing jointly, plus $300 for each dependent child under 17.

Will my rebate reduce my refund next year?

No. In fact, if you don't qualify for a rebate this year or you qualify for less than the maximum, you may be eligible for a rebate next year.

Who gets the earned income credit?

You may if you are between 25 and 65 with income of up to $12,590 (if childless) to $39,783 (two or more children).

What if I can't file by April 15?

Request an automatic six-month extension by filing Form 4868, either by mail or electronically. But you're still supposed to pay what you owe by April 15.

What if I can't pay the tax I owe?

File anyway, because there are separate penalties for not filing and not paying. You can pay by credit card or ask the IRS for an installment plan (Form 9465 or use the online payment agreement at irs.gov).

Helen Huntley can be reached
at hhuntley@sptimes.com
or (727) 893-8230.

Tax help

The income tax filing deadline is April 15. The IRS Web site (irs.gov) or call toll-free (800) 829-1040 to ask a question or find out where to get free in-person help. Check out the St. Petersburg Times' income tax special report at money.tampabay.com.

>>fast facts

Tax help

The income tax filing deadline is April 15. Try the IRS Web site (irs.gov ) or call toll-free 1-800-829-1040 to ask a question or find out where to get free help in person. Check out the St. Petersburg Times' income tax special report at money.tampabay.com.

>>by the numbers

Tax filing season*

138.3-million
Returns expected

78.8-million
Returns already filed

$2,492 Average refund

9 percent Increase in electronic filings

*Through March 21

Source: IRS

File tax return online for faster refund, rebate 04/06/08 [Last modified: Monday, April 7, 2008 7:38pm]
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