IRS gives money-saving tax tips for those filing taxes

Published 6:00 pm Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Times are tough and the Internal Revenue Service knows people need to save money.

Now that most filers have their W-2s and are ready to file, here are some quick tips that may help:

1. Do your own taxes free. Use IRS Free File at to do your own tax return and e-file it online at no cost. Filers with income of $56,000 or less can use tax software free. Those with higher incomes can use the new fillable forms at no cost.

2. Get free tax preparation and e-filing. Go to a community help site staffed by trained volunteers. Sites will help those with income under $42,000 or who file a simple return. Some specialize in helping seniors. Call 2-1-1 to find a site in Alabama.

3. (NEW) Get tax credit for home purchase. Take a tax credit of up to $7,500 if you bought a home after April 8, 2008, and had not owned one for at least 3 years the purchase date. (Note: credit is paid back starting 2 years later over 15 years.)

4. (NEW) Qualify for more of last year’s stimulus payment? Claim the Recovery Rebate Credit (up to $600 for individuals, $1200 for couples) if you didn’t get a stimulus payment last year or didn’t get the full amount but you qualify based on 2008 income. Also, if you had a child or ceased being a dependent in 2008, you may qualify for this credit. NOTE: Watch out — early returns show lots of errors on this one! You’ll need to enter the correct amount of your 2008 stimulus payment to calculate this credit.

5. Income down in 2008? See if you qualify for Earned Income Tax Credit. A married couple filing jointly with income under $42,000 and 2 or more children could qualify for up to $4,824.

6. (NEW) Deduct your real estate taxes. Own a home but can’t itemize deductions? Add your real estate taxes to your standard deduction — up to an extra $500 for individuals, $1000 for married couples filing jointly.

7. Get your money faster. With e-file and direct deposit, your tax refund can be in your bank account in 10 days or less.

8. Get free help and forms. Don’t be confused by internet sites that end in .com, .net, .org or other designations instead of .gov that may charge for tax services the IRS provides at no cost. The address of the official IRS Web site is

9. Watch out for scams in your Inbox. Don’t add ID theft to your financial woes! IRS never sends e-mails about your taxes. No matter how real or official it may look, don’t respond and don’t click on any links or open any attachments. See for details.

10. Get free help with tax problems. There may be no need to hire someone to resolve an IRS problem. If going through the normal IRS channels has not worked, contact the Taxpayer Advocate Service toll-free at 1-877-777-4778.