For Immediate Release
Contact: Paige Tucker , Communications Specialist , 804.404.4109 , firstname.lastname@example.org
Individual income tax filing season opens Jan. 23
~ Tax Department commits to protecting taxpayer information and preventing refund fraud ~
RICHMOND, Va. – The Virginia Department of Taxation will open individual income tax filing season on Monday, Jan. 23, the same day as the IRS. The deadline to file 2016 Virginia tax returns is Monday, May 1.
“Timely and accurate processing of every return is a priority for the department. As refund fraud schemes grow more elaborate, we may need to take extra time to review returns. This means it will take longer to issue refunds to some taxpayers than it has in the past,” said Tax Commissioner Craig Burns. “To prevent refund fraud, we’re enlisting the help of tax professionals, employers, payroll providers, and taxpayers.”
Taxpayers are encouraged to visit Refund Fraud Prevention on the department’s website to find out how to protect themselves from refund fraud, steps to take if they think they are victims of identity theft, and how to reduce chances that their tax returns are stopped for review.
Tips for the filing season:
File electronically: It’s the most efficient way to get your refund. On average, taxpayers who file their returns electronically and request their refunds by direct deposit receive their refunds sooner than those who file on paper or request refunds by check. Many Virginians may be eligible to file their state tax returns electronically for free using VA FreeFile or Free Fillable Forms. To make the filing process go more smoothly, taxpayers should have W-2s and other year-end statements before preparing their returns. The department offers online access to Form 1099G/1099INT for taxpayers who need to know the amount of the Virginia tax refund they received in 2016.
Choose direct deposit for refunds: Be sure to verify current banking information on tax returns to ensure accurate processing. Taxpayers may choose to receive refunds by check, but it will take longer to get their refunds.
Check refund status online or by phone: Use the online tool or call 804.367.2486. Both options are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Taxpayers will need their Social Security number, tax year, and the amount of the expected refund.
Visit the department’s website at www.tax.virginia.gov for more information about Virginia tax laws.
Most Virginians Can e-File Their Taxes Free this Year
RICHMOND – Well over 70 percent of Virginians can prepare and electronically file their tax returns free, saving them time and money.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Tax Commissioner Craig Burns and members of the General Assembly emphasized this point during a public briefing Wednesday at the Library of Virginia.
“Free File is an important resource that enables eligible Virginians to receive the full amount of their well-earned tax refund,” said Gov. McAuliffe. “I encourage everyone (who qualifies) in Virginia to use Free File.” He said the Free File program is a great example of the public and private sectors working together.
Five tax-preparation software providers are available under the Virginia Free File program. Each has its own eligibility requirements for using its return-preparation software, including adjusted gross income, age, and whether the taxpayer is eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit.
“By making it easier for people to file electronically, we are helping all Virginians,” said Burns.
Another way to complete and e-File individual tax returns free is by using Fillable Forms, an online version of the 760 resident return. Individuals can fill out their state tax returns online and then e-File them free. While all resident taxpayers can use this option for completing their return, there are a few limitations for filing a Fillable Form electronically.
In 2015, taxpayers filed more than 3.2 million tax returns, or about 80 percent, electronically. E-Filing is the fastest and easiest way to file tax returns in Virginia. That is completely opposite from 15 years ago, when 80 percent of taxpayers filed on paper.
Individual Income Tax Filing Season Opens Jan. 19
~ File Electronically and Choose Direct Deposit to Receive Refunds Promptly ~
RICHMOND, Va. – The Virginia Department of Taxation will open individual income tax filing season on Tuesday, Jan. 19, the same day as the IRS. The deadline to file 2015 Virginia tax returns is Monday, May 2.
“Accurate and timely processing of tax returns and preventing the issuance of fraudulent refunds are top priorities for the department,” said Tax Commissioner Craig Burns. “Our employees are ready to serve the citizens of Virginia, and we look forward to another successful tax season.”
The department is committed to protecting all taxpayers’ information and reducing the risk of identity theft and tax refund fraud. Because the agency is carefully reviewing all returns, it may take longer to receive refunds than in past years. See Tax-Related Identity Theft Prevention to learn what the department is doing to keep information secure and how taxpayers can protect themselves.
The department offers these tips as the filing season nears:
File electronically: Electronic filing is easy, convenient and helps improve the accuracy of returns. Many Virginians may be eligible to file their state tax returns electronically for free using VA FreeFile or Free Fillable Forms. Taxpayers should visit the department’s website for information about electronic filing options. To make the filing process go more smoothly, taxpayers should have all required year-end statements before preparing their returns. The department offers online access to Form 1099G/1099INT for taxpayers who need to know the amount of Virginia tax refunds they received in 2015.
Choose direct deposit for refunds: Direct deposit is the quickest and safest way to receive a refund. Be sure to provide current banking information on tax returns to ensure accurate processing. Taxpayers may choose to receive their refunds by check, but it will take longer to get their refunds. Refunds will no longer be available on pre-paid debit cards.
Check the status of refunds online or use the department’s automated phone service: Taxpayers will need their Social Security number, tax year and the amount of the expected refund to check the status of their refunds online. They can also call 804.367.2486 to use an automated system available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
For more information, visit the department’s website at www.tax.virginia.gov.
Virginia's Popular Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday Returns August 1-3
RICHMOND, Va. - Are you thinking about preparing for the upcoming school year - kindergarten, college, or somewhere in between? Or maybe you've finished school, but want to refresh your wardrobe or stock up on office supplies? If so, you may want to make a list because Virginia's most popular sales tax holiday is just around the corner.
For the ninth straight year, many clothing items, footwear, and school and office supplies will be sales tax-free during the first full weekend in August, which is Aug. 1-3 this year. It's a great time to buy what you need while saving some money.
During the three-day event, most school supplies that cost $20 or less each, as well as clothing items and pairs of shoes priced at $100 or less each will be exempt from Virginia's 5.3 percent state and local sales tax. You'll save even more in most Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads localities, where the sales tax is 6 percent. For example, if you spend $500 on qualifying items during the sales tax holiday, you'll save $26.50 on exempt purchases. You'll save $30 in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.
The list of tax-exempt items is the same as last year. It includes, for example, pens, pencils, loose leaf ruled notebook paper, scissors, binders, backpacks, construction paper, sneakers, hats, shirts, dresses, jeans, bathing suits, diapers, T-shirts, and many other items. There is no requirement that the purchases be made for school purposes.
All retailers who sell the exempt items are required to participate.
"This is the most universal of Virginia's three sales tax holidays, so it's been very popular among both consumers and businesses in Virginia," said Tax Commissioner Craig Burns. "Returning to class is an exciting time for students, but it can also be a stressful time for their parents. Foregoing the sales tax on some necessary purchases is especially beneficial to large families who are sending multiple children back to school."
The tax-exempt items are available to anyone shopping in the state and there is no limit on the number of products you can buy tax-free as long as each one qualifies under the guidelines.
If you can't get out to the stores, but still want to shop and save, online purchases of qualifying items are also tax-exempt during the sales tax holiday.
During this sales tax holiday, retailers may also choose to save taxpayers even more money by absorbing, or paying themselves, the sales tax on items that are not eligible for exemption. In past years, many stores have taken advantage of this opportunity and some have sold everything in their stores tax-free.
An all-inclusive list of school supplies, a list of exempt clothing and footwear items, guidelines for shoppers and retailers, and answers to frequently asked questions are available on the Department's Sales Tax Holiday Information Center at www.tax.virginia.gov.
Virginia's other two sales tax holidays are for hurricane preparedness in May, and for energy-efficient appliances and water-saving items in October.
For Immediate Release
Contact: Joel Davison, Public Relations Manager, 804 786-3507, email@example.com
First-Hand Experience Warns Us to Prepare for Hurricane Season
~ State’s Hurricane Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday Is Great Way to Prepare ~
RICHMOND - The deadly tornadoes and massive storms sweeping the Midwest this week is an all-too-familiar reminder that Virginia must be prepared to face calamities of its own.
With the 2013 hurricane season knocking on the door, now is the perfect time to assess whether you and your family are prepared to face potential power outages, strong wind and rain, and little access to outside food and water.
"I hope people pay attention to this sales tax holiday and take the time to prepare their homes and themselves for whatever may come our way, while saving some money," said Governor Bob McDonnell. "In recent years, we've seen hurricanes, earthquakes, tropical storms and tornadoes in Virginia. Stocking up on water, flashlights, batteries, first aid kits and other essentials can make a big difference in an emergency."
Once you've checked your supplies, make a list of what you still need and, if you'd like to save some money, do your shopping during Virginia's Hurricane Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday, which runs May 25-31. The holiday allows you to shop tax-free for many items you may need in an emergency.
The holiday exempts 22 categories of smaller items, including batteries, flashlights, bottled water, tarps, duct tape, cell-phone chargers, smoke detectors, and first aid kits. As long as each item costs $60 or less, it is exempt from sales and use tax. Portable generators and inverters priced at $1,000 or less are also exempt during the holiday. For a full list of tax-exempt products, answers to frequently asked questions, and guidelines for consumers and retailers, visit www.tax.virginia.gov.
During this seven-day period, retailers may also choose to pay the sales tax themselves on any nonexempt items and pass the 5 percent savings onto customers.
The 2013 General Assembly agreed that, beginning with the 2014 hurricane sales tax holiday, chainsaws selling for $350 or less, and chainsaw accessories selling for $60 or less per item would be included in the list of tax-exempt items. Taxpayers can look forward to this next year.
Go to www.ReadyVirginia.gov for information about putting together a family plan and supply kit for emergencies. The 2013 hurricane season begins June 1.
Virginia also has a sales tax holiday for school supplies and clothing in August, and one for Energy Star and WaterSense products in October.
New Video Shows 3 Ways to e-File Tax Returns
~ Electronic Filing + Direct Deposit = Fastest Refund ~
RICHMOND - A new video by the Virginia Department of Taxation helps individuals choose the best way to file their 2012 income taxes electronically.
The video, "How to e-File Your Tax Return," gives an overview of three electronic filing methods: Free File, Free Fillable Forms, and Paid e-File.
The fastest way to get your tax refund is to file your return electronically, or e-File, and request direct deposit for your refund. Filing electronically is easier than ever and is free in many cases. Last year, 72 percent of state income tax returns, or over 2.8 million, were e-Filed, while just over 1 million paper returns were filed. Fifty-six percent of refunds were deposited directly into bank accounts. There is never a charge for direct deposit. Both the number of e-Filed returns and the number of direct-deposit refunds increased by 4 percent last year.
The video explains that the first option, Free File, is a federal-state program that helps qualified individuals prepare and file their federal and state tax returns for free. There are several software companies participating in Free File and each has its own criteria for determining who can use its services for free. If you qualify and want to use Free File, you may choose a company and enter its web portal through the Department's website. You may then prepare your federal and state returns with the help of the interview-based software and e-File your returns for free.
The second option outlined in the video is Free Fillable Forms. Free Fillable Forms is an online fill-in version of the Virginia Form 760, the state's resident income tax return, and includes the most commonly used schedules. You must read the instructions, know which schedules to use, and do your own calculations as you complete your return. There are no age or income restrictions, but there are other requirements if you want to e-File your return. For example, you must be a full-year Virginia resident, and some tax credits cannot be claimed using Free Fillable Forms.
Paid e-File is the third filing method discussed in the video. Paid e-File is a way to file your federal and state returns through a commercial software vendor for a fee. The Department has a list of over 30 approved commercial software products to choose from on its website. You can click on the companies that interest you to find out more about their services and fees. Like Free File, these products do the calculations for you, while navigating you through your return. You can then file your federal and state returns electronically.
"Electronic filing is faster and more convenient than completing a paper return, it's practically error-proof, and it's more secure than mailing your return," said Joel Davison, the Department's Public Relations Manager. "There's a reason why nearly three out of four people now file electronically in Virginia - they get their money fast and securely."
Beginning with returns for tax year 2012, the Department is required to issue refunds either through direct deposit or prepaid debit card. This saves the state money that it would otherwise spend on printing and mailing checks. Those who are filing state returns for tax year 2012 and expecting a refund must choose whether to receive the refund by direct deposit or prepaid debit card. Checks can no longer be requested. Read more about the debit card program here.
Phone Scam Related to New Refund Debit Card
RICHMOND - The Virginia Department of Taxation has been alerted to a phone scam related to the new Virginia Tax Refund Debit Card.
The Department has received reports of phone calls being made to individuals, telling them that their "Way2Go prepaid MasterCard is locked for security reasons." The automated caller then tries to get the listener to divulge personal information.
This is a phone scam. The Department never makes automated calls and never solicits personal information in this manner. If you receive such a call, hang up immediately. If the call is recorded as a voice mail, delete it.
The Department goes to great lengths to protect the confidentiality and privacy of taxpayer information. This scam is not related in any way to the security of the new tax refund debit card or any information that taxpayers may submit to the Department. The Department cautions individuals never to give personal information to anyone calling unless they can verify the source.
A division of Xerox Corp. administers the new Virginia Tax Refund Debit Card and refers to it as the "Way2Go" card.
The Department is working with other government agencies, law enforcement, the debit card vendor, and the telephone companies involved to try and end the phone scam.
Questions should be directed to the agency's Customer Services Department at 804.367.8031.
State Tax Refunds No Longer Offered by Check
~ Direct Deposit, Prepaid Debit Card Are the Only Options Available ~
RICHMOND - If you usually receive your state tax refund by check, you'll have to choose a new option.
The 2012-2014 Appropriations Act approved by the 2012 General Assembly eliminated paper refund checks to save money for the Commonwealth of Virginia. The state issued over 1.2 million refund checks last year, and will save about $200,000 in printing and mailing costs annually under the new law.
Most Virginians have their refunds deposited directly into their bank accounts. This is the fastest way to get your refund, especially if you file your return online.
Individuals who prefer not to use direct deposit will receive a prepaid debit card loaded with their refund amount. The new Virginia Tax Refund Debit Card is a more secure and convenient alternative to receiving a refund check in the mail, and eliminates check-cashing fees.
A division of Xerox Corporation will administer Virginia's debit card program at no cost to the state. The refund will be held in a bank account at a MasterCard® bank so both the funds and the debit card are protected by state and federal laws. The card is activated by phone or online using personal information that only you should know, and you will create a PIN, or personal identification number, for use with the card.
"Most individuals prefer to have their refunds deposited directly into their bank accounts because it's the easiest, fastest way to get your money," said Tax Commissioner Craig Burns. "For those who don't use direct deposit, debit cards are a secure alternative that provide cost savings for the Commonwealth."
The card can be used like any debit card to make purchases in stores or online, to pay bills, to get cash back at the point of sale, or to receive cash at an ATM. You can also transfer the funds to your own account or get your entire refund amount in cash at any MasterCard® bank. While you will be able to access your entire refund without cost, there are fees associated with some services and transactions. Anyone considering receiving their tax refund by debit card should review the fee schedule on the Department of Taxation's website at www.tax.virginia.gov, which also includes frequently asked questions and other information about the debit card program.
The Virginia Tax Refund Debit Card cannot be used after the refund amount is gone. You will receive a new debit card for future refunds, unless you choose direct deposit. Joint filers will receive two debit cards that draw from a single joint refund account. The Department cannot split a refund amount into separate accounts.
Several other states are already using debit cards for tax refunds.
Tax Department's New Website Gives Taxpayers What They've Asked For
RICHMOND - The Virginia Department of Taxation introduced a brand new website this week designed to give taxpayers a quicker, more intuitive path to the information they need.
Along with a fresh, uncluttered home page and a new look and feel, the new website features a menu-based design that guides users to what they need with a minimum of mouse clicks. The forms have been organized in a more navigable layout with additional information about each one. The search function is much improved, and important announcements and other information are now featured in a large slideshow in the center of the home page.
The major website overhaul was largely in response to comments and suggestions received from taxpayers in surveys on the old site, along with feedback from focus groups and Department employees. The new site better aligns with the needs and expectations of the agency's stakeholders, who include individuals, businesses, tax professionals and localities.
"Our customers were a little frustrated and I didn't blame them," said Tax Commissioner Craig M. Burns. "The site needed upgrading anyway and the taxpayers who took the time to respond to surveys helped us define what the new site should look like. We now have a full-time webmaster to keep the new site current and up to the standards our customers demand."
More taxpayers than ever, both individuals and businesses, are doing their tax-related transactions online through the Department's website. Last year the site logged over 9 million electronic transactions, including returns filed, payments made and businesses registered. This was an increase of nearly 10 percent over the previous year.
All of the content on the new site has been reviewed and, in many cases, rewritten to make it easier to understand. The new site is also compatible with most browsers and electronic devices, such as mobile phones and tablets. The address of the new site is the same as the old site: www.tax.virginia.gov.
The Department will continue to update and add new content and features to the site with an eye toward constantly improving the experience for its customers. It will also continue paying close attention to their feedback.
New Office Will Provide More Streamlined Service for Customers
RICHMOND, Va. - The Virginia Department of Taxation is moving its Customer Service Walk-In Office this weekend from 3610 West Broad Street to 1957 Westmoreland Street, Richmond. The final day at 3610 West Broad is Friday, August 26. The new office location, which will open Monday, August 29, is more spacious than the current office and will provide better service to customers.
To drive to the new location, turn off West Broad Street onto Westmoreland Street near Richmond Ford (located at 4600 West Broad Street). Travel four-tenths of a mile and look for the Tax Department sign and the large building on the right.
The Department's telephone numbers are not changing.
Tax Department, Other Agencies Playing Active Role in New Personal Finance SOL
~ Agency helping to integrate tax information into new high school course ~
RICHMOND, Va. - The Department of Taxation and other state agencies have been working with the Virginia Council on Economic Education to provide teachers with curriculum resources and professional development for a new Standards of Learning course designed to equip students with basic economic and financial literacy.
Beginning in the fall of 2011, incoming high school freshmen must earn a credit in the new Economics and Personal Finance SOL in order to graduate. This will help them to eventually become better employees, consumers, savers, investors, entrepreneurs and active citizens.
After the Tax Department (TAX) expressed interest in being involved, it was asked by VCEE to review and provide comments on the new SOL. Once the SOL was approved by the Board of Education, VCEE asked TAX and other groups to develop and teach lessons to groups of teachers in Northern Virginia, Tidewater and Richmond as part of weeklong Personal Finance Institutes this summer. TAX's lesson focused on helping teachers understand where tax revenue comes from and how it is used at the federal, state and local levels; the different types of taxes; tax structure; and tax exemptions, deductions and credits.
Sarah Finley, executive director of VCEE, which is leading the professional development efforts for the new SOL, said the Tax Department (TAX) has "played a very helpful part, particularly with respect to the portion of the new SOL that relates to taxes. We've had a good back and forth to provide information that the teachers and students need to know about but would not have had access to otherwise."
Other agencies and organizations helping with this effort include the Department of Consumer Services, the Bureau of Insurance, the Virginia Bankers Association, and certified financial planners. Funding support has come from the private sector, particularly the financial services industry, so teachers can take the courses at minimal expense.
"This cooperative effort should pay big dividends for Virginia students and better prepare them for the complex world they face after graduation," said Acting Tax Commissioner Craig Burns.
Finley said VCEE plans to continue the Personal Finance Institutes for another four years to assist as many teachers as possible in learning the components of the new SOL.
Meeting Notice - State Land Evaluation Advisory Council (SLEAC)
The Department of Taxation will host a meeting for the State Land Evaluation Advisory Council on Monday, August 9, 2010, at 11:00 a.m.
Please refer to the meeting details for further information.
Tax Commissioner Janie Bowen Dies Unexpectedly
~ She leaves strong legacy of service to the Commonwealth ~
RICHMOND, Va. - Virginia Tax Commissioner Janie Bowen, who devoted her entire working life to the Department of Taxation, died unexpectedly Tuesday morning.
Bowen was a classic example of an employee who steadily worked her way up through the ranks, from taking phone calls to leading one of the largest revenue departments in the nation.
During her term as Tax Commissioner she was the driving force behind many accomplishments that helped the agency better serve employees and the citizens of Virginia. These included developing the Commonwealth's model telework program, developing an Intranet so agency staff could communicate more efficiently, beginning a program called Tax Academy where new hires were trained in a variety of jobs so they could work in several roles as needed, and spearheading a visioning process that helped focus the agency on the future.
She earned her bachelor's degree in political science and government at the University of Georgia before returning to Charlottesville, where she was born and raised, to complete her master's degree at the University of Virginia.
She went to work at the agency in 1978 as a Tax Examiner handling sales tax phone calls and correspondence. She also served as Director of Tax Policy, Assistant Commissioner for Customer Service, and then as Executive Commissioner for Policy and Administration. She also served briefly as Deputy Secretary of Finance before then Governor Tim Kaine appointed her Tax Commissioner in May of 2006.
Last week, Bowen was elected president of the Federation of Tax Administrators, which helps all 50 states with training, research and keeps a close eye on federal legislation affecting state tax revenues. Last week she also earned an award from the Telework Exchange organization for being the "driver" behind the Tax Department's telework program.
National Group Honors TAX, Bowen for Agency's 'Strategic,' 'Flexible' Telework Program
~ TAX Accepts 2 Telework Exchange Awards Today in D.C. ~
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Virginia Department of Taxation was honored twice on Tuesday for its robust telework program that has boosted both agency production and morale. TAX took home awards in the "Excellence in Telework Leadership" and "State Telework Driver Award" categories at Telework Exchange's annual awards ceremony in Washington.
"They talked about how we were on the forefront and a leading agency in terms of both public and private teleworking," said TAX Telework Coordinator Juliann Krogh, who accepted the awards for the agency at the City Club of Washington. "I think these awards show that TAX is continuing to explore new ways to expand its telework program. They also reflect the commitment of both our leadership and of employees to make it work for the agency."
Tax Commissioner Janie Bowen won the "Driver" award. The leadership award went to the agency.
"Telework has transformed how we do business at TAX," said Bowen, who was unable to attend. "This single change not only improved productivity, but raised employee morale at the same time, both for a modest cost.
"It has also given us tremendous flexibility to provide an instant response to weather and other emergencies by having a fully-equipped off-site work force ready to go on a moment's notice," added Bowen.
Telework Exchange chose Bowen as winner of the State Telework Driver Award because she has been "a leading proponent for building a robust, innovative, and pragmatic telework program at the Department of Taxation. The program's success and sustainability continues to be driven by Ms. Bowen's vision, persuasion, persistence, and most of all, leadership."
In awarding TAX the "Excellence in Telework Leadership Award," Telework Exchange noted that the agency's program is "successful due to the excellence of its leaders. TAX's executive team embraced a top-down approach when implementing the telework program by encouraging managers to allow eligible employees to telework and participating in the initial pilot which reinforced its viability."
Other awards garnered by TAX's telework program include the 2008 Best of Web and Digital Government Achievement Award, from eRepublic's Center for Digital Government for having a program that is easy to access and that delivers internal services efficiently; and the 2008 Governor's Technology Award for having the Best Public Sector Telework Initiative in the Commonwealth.
Virginia's Third Hurricane Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday Begins Soon
~ Save money while making sure your family is ready for an emergency ~
RICHMOND, Va. - With at least some meteorologists predicting an intense hurricane season this year, May is the perfect time to stock up on supplies you may need to prepare for an emergency.
Fortunately, Virginia's Hurricane Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday is just around the corner, and can help you save money on those emergency items - and on some everyday items as well.
The Hurricane Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday begins Tuesday, May 25, and runs through Monday, May 31. During this week, items like batteries, flashlights, bottled water, and first aid kits priced at $60 or less, as well as some bigger-ticket items like generators priced at $1,000 or less, will be exempt from the 5 percent state and local sales tax.
For a full list of eligible products, answers to frequently asked questions and guidelines for consumers and retailers, visit tax.virginia.gov and click on the "Sales Tax Holiday" logo under Announcements.
"Once again, Virginians should prepare themselves for what could be another damaging hurricane season," said Tax Commissioner Janie Bowen. "We know by experience that powerful hurricanes don't always sidestep Virginia. It's smart to shop early, before hurricane season begins on June 1, and why not save some money at the same time?"
During this seven-day period, retailers may also choose to pay the sales tax themselves on any nonexempt items and pass the 5 percent savings on to their customers.
Virginia also has sales tax holidays for school supplies and clothing, which this year is Aug. 6-8, and for Energy Star and WaterSense products, from Oct. 8-11.
As Deadline Nears, Virginians Should Consider Filing their Taxes Electronically
~ Returns Must Be Filed by May 3 this Year ~
RICHMOND, Va. - If you still haven't filed your state income tax return and are expecting a refund this year, why not do what the vast majority of Virginia taxpayers are doing - file your return electronically. With the filing deadline fast approaching, this makes more sense than ever.
Filing online is the easiest, fastest and safest way to file your taxes and is the quickest way to get your refund, especially if you use direct deposit. As of April 6, just over 2 million Virginians had filed their individual tax returns, with 1.7 million, or 85 percent, filing electronically.
Returns that are filed online take about a week to process, while paper-filed returns take about 30 days. Having your refund sent to you by check instead of having it direct deposited adds another week or so to the wait.
"More and more taxpayers are discovering how fast and easy it is to file their returns electronically," said Tax Commissioner Janie Bowen. "That's great news for them as well as the Commonwealth. Not only are they getting their refunds faster, electronic filing also saves Virginia money because it's much cheaper for us to process a return filed online than a paper return that arrives in the mail. Those who still haven't filed should give electronic filing a try."
The filing deadline this year is May 3 since May 1, the normal deadline for filing state income taxes, falls on a Saturday.
TAX has information about all the available electronic filing options on its Web site at tax.virginia.gov, which is where you can use the agency's free iFile program to file your taxes.
Regardless of which way you file, here are some important tips to remember:
• Make sure the names and social security numbers on your return are correct;
• Make sure the withholding information you enter matches your W-2s;
• If you are filing a joint return, make sure you enter the names and social security numbers in the same order as last year; and
• If you are mailing your return, make sure it is signed, dated and postmarked by May 3.
Tax Department Shares National Award for Innovative Compliance Program
RICHMOND, Va. - The Department of Taxation's (TAX's) innovative system of evaluating individual tax refunds has won accolades from the national Federation of Tax Administrators.
The agency's Individual Refund Evaluation (IRE) system earned TAX a share of FTA's 2010 Outstanding Compliance Program award. TAX tied for the award with two other states - Mississippi and Washington. Each of the winning programs "is a good example of something any state can do," according to FTA. "Every state can learn from all three of these."
Virginia's program has come a long way in rooting out fraudulent tax returns. Prior to implementing the IRE system, TAX's refund compliance efforts depended largely on basic functions, such as checking for questionable social security numbers and bank accounts. There were no reports or tracking procedures to measure either inventory or results.
The new IRE program is a relatively simple, yet powerful system that can zero in on fraudulent refunds in a wide range of scenarios and models. TAX accomplished this sea change by tying its new data warehouse to its recently updated computerized revenue management system. TAX business owners, who use the system daily, control the models and the criteria and can create, test and implement a new model in a matter of days.
"This program is an example of how the Tax Department strives to find smarter, more efficient ways to do its business," said Tax Commissioner Janie Bowen. "The refund evaluation program has gone a long way toward detecting fraudulent refunds and keeping them out of the hands of unscrupulous taxpayers."
TAX is not only stopping many more inflated refunds from going out the door, it is also reducing the number of legitimate refund requests that are delayed. Between January 2007 and June 2009, IRE helped TAX deny $6.9 million in fraudulent refunds and helped collect an additional $3.1 million from assessments generated by the refund review.
FTA judges commended TAX, saying Virginia "should be proud of what they've done."
The award will be presented at FTA's annual meeting in Atlanta on June 7.
Filing your Tax Return Online Is the Fastest Way to Get your Refund
~ A record 2.3 million taxpayers filed their Virginia returns online last year ~
RICHMOND, Va. - Last year, more than 2.3 million Virginia taxpayers, a record 61 percent, filed their tax refunds electronically - hands down, the easiest, fastest, safest way to file. If they were due a refund, the majority of online taxpayers had them within days. Those who filed on paper, on the other hand, waited up to four weeks for their refunds.
Filers can expect the same turnaround times this year.
The reason for this is that, like last year, the Department of Taxation (TAX) is hiring fewer hourly employees during the busy filing season to process paper returns due to the budget issues facing the Commonwealth. Processing paper returns is much more costly than processing returns filed over the Internet.
Not only is electronic filing the fastest way to get your tax refund, it is also the easiest way to file because you can transmit your return anytime you want as long as you have a computer and an Internet connection. TAX also has a secure Web site to keep your tax information confidential and, with electronic filing, the processing of your return and refund won't be delayed due to math errors because electronic filing programs do the calculations for you.
"Income tax filing season is the only time of year we interact with most taxpayers and we want their experience to be as smooth and pleasant as possible; that's why we encourage them to file online," said Tax Commissioner Janie Bowen. "More and more taxpayers are filing their returns electronically each year and finding that it takes them far less time than filling out paper forms, and puts their refund in their hand much sooner."
Whether you file online or on paper, you should have your refund deposited directly into your bank account. Requesting a check adds approximately another week to the processing of your refund.
Taxpayers have several options for filing their tax returns electronically and getting a faster refund:
- Go to TAX's Web site, tax.virginia.gov, and use iFile, TAX's free filing service.
- Go to irs.gov and use the IRS' e-File program to file both federal and state returns. If your adjusted gross income in 2009 was $57,000 or less, you can file your federal return for free. Many e-File vendors also let you file your state return for a small fee.
- Use commercial tax-filing software.
- Go to a tax professional and ask that your tax return be sent electronically.
- Check our Web site to see if your local commissioner of the revenue can file your return for you. If so, there is no charge.