Common mistakes cost time, money during tax time
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- With income tax season underway at Yokota Air Base, Japan, the tax center opened its doors to help Airmen and their families with questions and concerns they may have on filing their tax returns.
But before walking into the tax center to file, Airmen can benefit by avoiding some common mistakes that may delay or even reject their returns.
"The most common mistake we see is with the Individual Taxpayer Identification Number," said Tech. Sgt. Suzanne D. Northern, tax center noncommissioned officer in charge. "Not having the ITIN may delay your tax return up to several weeks, most of the time up to six weeks."
So what is an ITIN?
According to the Internal Revenue Service website, an ITIN is a tax processing number issued by the IRS for certain resident and nonresident aliens, their spouses and their dependents. The ITIN is only available to individuals who are required to have a taxpayer identification number for tax purposes but who do not have and are ineligible to obtain a Social Security Number from the Social Security Administration.
Keep it simple.
Northern said, "consider ITIN as the replacement of SSN for your foreign-born dependents," she said. "Many people would like to get the benefit of claiming dependents on their tax returns. Without a SSN or ITIN of their own, they cannot claim them."
Because it takes several weeks to receive an ITIN, some impatient people create more mistakes by attempting to file individually under the wrong category.
Northern said, "If you are married, you are to file under the Married Filing Jointly or Married Filing Separately."
"It certainly is possible to file the taxes individually and still claim a dependent later on, but it must be filed under Married Filing Separately," Northern said. "As soon as the dependent's ITIN is available, you may file an amendment to receive the benefits."
The mistakes with ITIN are mostly service members with alien dependents, but there are mistakes being made by single Airmen and dependents with SSNs.
"Sometimes people give the wrong SSN and date of birth," said Manuel Depaiva, a volunteer tax assistant at the tax center. "We need the correct SSN and DOB in order to verify and complete filing their tax returns. Without the correct information, we cannot proceed."
"Also bring in interest information, school loan, last year's tax return, void check or bank information and most importantly, the income statements," Depaiva said. "And if you filed taxes with us last year, let us know. That will make the process much smoother."
Prior to bringing every statement and other information to the tax center, Northern encouraged people to pay a visit to www.IRS.gov.
"The website will let you know what the IRS is currently accepting, because IRS is not accepting everything at this moment. For example, IRS is not accepting the claims for rental property depreciation value until late February to March," Northern said. "If anyone has a question or are unsure about something, call us -- especially people who file online, we can do our best to walk you through the confusing process."
The tax center's hours are from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday. They are closed on federal holidays and are slated to be on minimally manned during exercises. The tax center encourages making appointments instead of walk-ins, because of the high customer traffic they have at the office.
"When you call in and set up an appointment, we will provide you with all the information needed to file your taxes," Depaiva said. "We're here to help!"