Income tax filing deadline approaching

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – For the last six weeks, the IRS has been accepting and processing individual tax returns. You still have just under seven weeks to file, but before you do, make sure you’re aware of any changes ahead for this year.

The IRS says more than 153 million returns are expected to be filed this year. More than 70 percent of taxpayers are expected to get refunds this year. Refunds totaling $111 million were issued last year with the average refund of $2,860. Now, in an effort to detect fraud, a new law was enacted this year that requires the IRS to hold refunds claiming the earned income tax credit and the additional child tax credit.

Many who filed early and are eligible for those credits are just now beginning to receive refunds. The IRS says many affected taxpayers will not have access to their refunds until the end of this week, so be patient. Since we’re in the middle of the tax filing season, remember to be alert to phone and email phishing scams.

More: 5 lesser-known tax breaks to help you save on income taxes

Many people have reported con artists are either calling or sending email messages claiming they want to verify the last four digits of your Social Security number, supposedly to see if your information had been hacked, due to recent data breaches across the country. Don’t be tricked into divulging any personal information.

Jonathan Katsiros at H&R Block says there is a trend among tax filers insured through the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

“Some of the problems that people are making is they’re not getting coverage from the marketplace to keep from getting a health care penalty. Depending on how much money you make for the year, and depending on the size of your household, there are certain exemptions you can get that keeps you from getting the health care penalty,” said Katsiros. “They can be getting [penalties] from anywhere from $695 up to $2,085, or two-and-a-half percent of your taxable income – whichever is higher.”

More: 6 ways to maximize your income tax return

Katsiros also said the fastest and safest way to file an accurate income tax return is by choosing e-file and direct deposits. The IRS anticipates issuing more than nine out of 10 refunds, 90 percent, in less than 21 days. If your refund has not been deposited within that time frame, check the Where’s My Refund? section of the IRS website.

Because of a holiday in Washington DC, the filing deadline to submit your 2016 returns is Tuesday, April 18, rather than the traditional April 15 date, which falls on a Saturday this year. The IRS says that normally would push the filing deadline to the following Monday, April 17, but the nation’s capitol will celebrate the legal holiday of Emancipation Day on Monday, April 17. So that, in turn, pushes the federal tax deadline to Tuesday, April 18, for the entire country.

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