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Did You File a Tax Return This Year?

Authored By: Legal Aid Services of Oregon LSC Funded
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Did You File a Tax Return This Year?

Most people who earn income in the United States have to file federal tax forms by April 15 of each year. If you earned income in the U.S. last year and didn't file a tax form, you can still file one, even though the deadline has passed. To file a tax return, you need either a valid Social Security number or tax ID number (called an AITIN@) that can be used only for filing taxes. Each family member listed on the return must also have a Social Security number or an ITIN. A person who doesn't have a valid Social Security number can fill out form W-7 to apply for an ITIN. You should never put a false Social Security number on your tax return. Here are three reasons to file a tax return:

1. You may be legally required to file a tax return.

You have to file a federal tax return if you earn more than a certain amount of money each year. The amounts depend upon your age and family size, and they usually change each year.

Many workers who earn wages in Oregon have to file an Oregon state tax return as well, even if they are not full-time Oregon residents. Workers who earn money in other states may also have to file tax returns for those states.

If you owe taxes and don't file a return and pay the taxes you owe, the government can charge you penalties and interest.

2. You may be entitled to a refund.

Even if you earned less than these amounts, it may be to your benefit to file a tax return. You may be entitled to a refund of some or all of the money your employers withheld from your pay. The amount withheld depends upon your income and family size. When you start a new job, your employer will ask you to fill out a tax form called a W-4 form, and will base your withholding on the information you put on the W-4 form. If you received a refund of all the income tax withheld from your pay last year, and you expect to receive a full refund this year, you can write the word "EXEMPT" on your W-4 form and your employer will not withhold federal taxes from your pay. Be sure that you qualify to write "EXEMPT" on the W-4, before you do it. Putting wrong information on the W-4 form can mean that you will have to pay more when it is time to file your taxes, and may cause further penalties.

You may also be entitled to the Earned Income Credit. The Earned Income Credit (EIC) is a special tax credit for people who work but earn only a low income. The amount of the credit changes every year, and it depends upon your income and your family size.

The EIC is a fully refundable tax credit. This means that if you owe taxes, the EIC will reduce the amount of taxes that you owe. If you don=t owe taxes, the EIC will be sent to you as a refund.

To qualify for the EIC, your children must live with you at least six months of the year. They must also have valid Social Security numbers. If you live with your spouse, he or she must also have a valid Social Security number in order for your family to receive the EIC. These requirements are different than those of other tax credits like the Dependent Exemption and the Child Tax Credit. Note: If one of these family members does not yet have a valid Social Security number, but is in the process of legalizing and will get a valid number in the future, you cannot get the EIC now. However, when that person gets a valid number, you can do a form 1040X, called an amended return, for the last three years and receive the EIC for those years.

3. Failing to file a tax return might affect your immigration rights.

If you are a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident, you can apply for visas that permit your relatives in other countries to immigrate to the United States. If you do this, you will have to show that you can support those relatives. This requires filing copies of your tax returns for the last three years.

If you are a legal permanent resident and apply to become a U.S. citizen, you will have to show that you have good moral character and have not committed certain crimes. Failing to file a tax return can be a crime and can show poor moral character.

IMPORTANT: If someone else does your taxes for you, make sure s/he is certified and trained in the current tax laws, and signs the return as a preparer.

 

6/2011

Last Review and Update: Jul 05, 2011