Filing a Tax Return

Filing a Tax Return
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Last updated: December 2015

Am I Required to File a Tax Return?

If you have income that is greater than a certain amount, you have to file a Federal and State income tax return. The amount changes each year – to find out what the minimum is you can call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. They can tell you, based on your annual income, whether or not you are required to file a tax return. You can also find this out by seeing IRS Publication 17. If you are required to file a return but do not, you can be fined or even jailed.

Should I File a Tax Return?

Even if you are not required to file a return, there are circumstances where you should file one anyway. Many people should file a return even if they’re not required to. If you fit in any of these categories, you should file a Federal and Illinois tax return:

  • You qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit;
  • You had any of your pay withheld for taxes by your employer; or
  • You made any estimated tax payments.

If you fit in any of these categories, you should file a return because you may be entitled to a refund.

What is the Deadline for Filing My Return?

Most people’s income tax returns must be filed (mailed or submitted electronically) by April 15 of the year following the year of the return. So, for example, your 2015 tax returns are due April 15, 2016. There are two exceptions to this rule:

  • If April 15 falls on a weekend or holiday, the due date is generally the next business day; and
  • You can file for an extension of this due date, as long as you file the request for extension by the due date and pay any tax due.

How Can I Get Help Preparing My Tax Return?

There are may sources of free help for preparing your tax return. The IRS sponsors the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. They will help you prepare your return if you qualify for their free help. Call 1-800-906-9887 to find the nearest VITA program location. If you are over 60 years of age, the AARP offers help through their Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program. Call 1-888-227-7669 to locate the nearest TCE program.

In addition to free programs, there are many tax preparation companies who will prepare your return for a fee. They make sense if you do not qualify for free help. For more information, see Getting Free Tax Help.

What Do I Need to Bring with Me When Getting Help with My Return?

Regardless of whether you get free help or paid help with your return, your tax preparer will need certain information from you. When you meet with your tax preparer, bring the following with you:

  • Proof of identification;
  • Social Security Cards for you, your spouse and dependents and/or a Social Security Number verification letter issued by the Social Security Administration;
  • Birth Dates for you, your spouse and dependents on the tax return;
  • This year's tax package if you received one;
  • Wage and earning statement(s) Form W-2, 1099-R, from all employers;
  • Interest and dividend statements from back (Forms 1099);
  • A copy of last year's Federal and State returns if available;
  • Bank Routing Numbers and Account Numbers for Direct Deposit;
  • Total paid for day care provider and the day care provider's tax identifying number (the provider's Social Security Number or the provider's business Employer Identification Number);
  • To file taxes electronically on a married filing joint tax return, both spouses must be present to sign the required forms.

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