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Get a Jump on April 15

Despite delays due to the 2013 government shutdown, the IRS has officially begun accepting tax returns for the 2014 tax season. Here are some tips on navigating tax season:

Why should I file a tax return?

Because it’s the law. If you don’t file your taxes, you risk losing your tax refund. The average taxpayer refund was $2,755 last year, according to the IRS. And if you owe money, you can face serious penalties if you fail to pay.

What’s new for 2014?

•Tax Day is April 15 for individuals

•Taxpayers under age 65 can only claim deductions for medical and dental expenses that exceed 10 percent of their gross income, up from 7.5 percent

•All legal same-sex marriages are recognized as “married” for federal tax purposes

•If you work from home, you can use a simplified method of calculating your home office deduction: $5/square foot of home office space, up to 300 square feet. You could also qualify for a tax break

What is the easiest way to file my taxes?

On the Internet: the IRS offers Free File. E-filing also allows the IRS to process your return more quickly than filing by paper. In 2013, more than 122 million taxpayers filed their individual tax returns using IRS e-file.

What are the benefits of filing my tax returns early?

The sooner you file a tax return, the sooner you get your tax refund. According to the IRS, you can expect your refund within 21 days. But if you wait too long to file, you may run into delays. You can check on the status of your refund using the “Where’s My Refund?” tool. If you e-file your taxes, you can check the status of your refund within 24 hours. If you file by paper, you’ll have to wait four weeks.

What if my taxes are late?

If you know your taxes won’t be finished by Tax Day, then you can request an automatic 4-month extension. However, an extension of time to file is not an extension of time to pay. If you owe the government tax money, then you still have to pay it on time.

Where can I find help?

You can find a tax professional or tax software to help you file your taxes. The IRS also offers a 24-hour, 7-day toll-free number to help answer any questions you have: 1-800-829-1040  For more information, visit

“Chance favors those in motion.”

~ James H. Austin

Herschel Bentley is the Executive Director of National Credit Federation.  He has 30 years experience in the credit, mortgage and real estate markets and loves helping people improve their credit and seeing referral sources grow their business.

Lawrence M Law is CEO of Vantage Credit Alliance and Regional Director for National Credit Federation. If you need assistance call 801-769-9443 or write him at