According to the Illinois Department of Revenue, last year there were 5.9 million tax returns filed in the state. Most residents will receive the relevant documents in the next few days and the state sees an initial rush to file taxes in January and early February. Filings do ease off during March, with a last-minute rush in April.
Ready. Set. File.
As of Wednesday, people can start the often-arduous and -painful task of filing their tax returns. The IRS had delayed the filing window by two weeks to incorporate new tax laws passed by Congress on Jan. 2.
“We wanted to track our returns system with the IRS, so people were filing their federal returns accurately with their state returns to follow after that,” said Susan Hofer, public information officer at the Illinois Department of Revenue.
The IRS provides free tax preparation services such as tax counseling for the elderly and Volunteer Income Tax Assistance for those who make less than $51,000.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced last week that the city would provide an additional $500,000 to help hire site leaders to provide tax-filing assistance for low-income Chicagoans. One subsidy that many qualify for, the Earned Income Tax Credit, comes as a tax refund.
In addition, the city has started a new website that will help residents locate free tax-preparation sites, file their taxes for free and learn more about the tax credit.
“Each and every year too many families either don’t know they are eligible or need help applying for the EITC, and this year the challenge is even greater because of the shortened tax season,” Emanuel said.
According to the Tax Policy Center, which employs former government tax experts, misreporting of income is a principal error made by tax filers claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit. Illinois has been trying to increase awareness among low-income working families to take advantage of the EITC.
The credit is especially helpful for single mothers, poor workers and families with three or more children. This helps them pay bills such as clothing and food.
“This is to help families file returns, to get the maximum credit they can get – and for free,” Hofer said.
Wilbur Wright College in Portage Park is one of the organizations providing such services. They have teamed up with Ladder Up, a non-profit affiliated with the IRS, to provide the VITA service. This year the program is available on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
Paul Croitoru, an assistant professor of business, said that the city, in unison with the IRS, sends postcards to people who used the service last year to inform them of new locations and times.
“On our end we, the faculty, some students and volunteers from the business community help with filing their taxes,” Croitoru said.