Tax day is fast approaching.
First, the good news: the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has just postponed the federal income tax filing date from April 15th to May 17th.
Presumably, the State of Oregon will follow suit and delay their deadlines, however as of now state taxes are still due April 15th. Also due April 15th: the Portland Arts Tax, which requires a separate form and payment from state and local taxes.
“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” — Benjamin Franklin
Even though we have a little breathing room, now is the time to get started working on your taxes, especially if you need a little help to get them done.
Another reason to get your taxes done early: if you are expecting a refund. There’s no sense letting the government earn interest on your money, so get filing. And try to avoid any “tax refund anticipation” loans – those are not a good option due to fees and interest.
If you live in Portland and need some assistance with your taxes, there is free and low-cost help available. However, if you wait until the last minute, it’s likely that the programs will be full and you will have to pay someone to do your taxes instead.
Should You Do Your Taxes Yourself?
Many people believe that preparing their taxes is more complicated than it is. The truth is, if you have a simple return you can likely do it yourself with an electronic tax filing service. As long as you avoid typos and double-check your work, the programs will calculate your return in accordance with state and federal law.
You also should use these services if you have a private internet connection. Experts strongly advise against you doing your taxes on public wifi, like at the public library or your local Starbucks, because those internet access points are not secure.
The Federal Government and the State of Oregon have approved a selection of providers of tax preparation software. Better yet, many of them are completely free of charge for both federal and state tax filing, if you meet certain maximum income thresholds. Other tax software is approved by Oregon and the federal government but may charge a fee for filing your return.
For a complete list of approved software services, check out the links on the State of Oregon Department of Revenue’s tax filing assistance page.
Getting Help With Preparing Your Taxes in Portland
Here are some programs that can help you file your taxes if you are lower-income or moderate income:
211 Info: Our local information and referral hotline can give you the most up-to-date information on local free or reduced tax filing programs. You can search their database at 211info.org or call them by dialing 2-1-1.
CASH Oregon: With offices in northeast Portland’s Lloyd Center Mall, CASH Oregon is a great option for help with taxes. They also have many other tax preparation locations across not only the Portland metro area but also the rest of the state. Contact them at 503-676-3324 or visit their webpage for a listing of their locations, requirements, and how to get an appointment.
AARP: The AARP Foundation offers tax preparation assistance for people over age 50 who have low- to moderate-income through their “Tax Aid” program. To get started, fill out a request for assistance on their webpage, and they will offer you potential options for assistance.
In many cases, people are not receiving a COVID stimulus check this month and will need to claim the stimulus as a tax credit instead. Be sure you know whether you received your stimulus payment and if not, be sure to note that on your taxes.
A Final Warning
Tax time is open season for scammers. Be vigilant and avoid tax pages that are not authorized by the state. If you get a call or an email about taxes that says it’s from the IRS, the State of Oregon, Multnomah County, or the City of Portland it’s almost certainly a scam. If you have a question, contact the taxing jurisdictions directly.
Here’s hoping for a nice refund this year!
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