BATON ROUGE – Tuesday, January 19 is the day the Louisiana Department of Revenue begins accepting and processing 2015 state individual income tax returns. The filing deadline is Monday, May 16.
The department enters this tax season with a focus on safeguarding taxpayers against fraud.
During the past two years, LDR has saved taxpayers more than $25 million through its anti-tax fraud initiatives. Additionally, more than 50 individuals have been arrested under a statewide initiative to crack down on tax fraud in Louisiana.
The department has responded to increasing occurrences of tax fraud by implementing enhanced security measures to protect Louisiana taxpayers. This means it will take additional time to process refunds. The expected refund processing time for returns filed electronically is up to 60 days. For paper returns, taxpayers should expect to wait 12 to 14 weeks.
LDR uses all available technology and resources to help protect and safeguard taxpayers against fraudulent activity. To protect taxpayers against fraud, including the suspicion of identity theft, a tax refund can be delayed while the department thoroughly reviews the suspicious tax return. When this occurs, the taxpayer is contacted through written correspondence with further instructions.
Taxpayers can also experience delays in receiving their refund if they fail to keep their most current contact information on file, including their name, address, and telephone number. If needed, taxpayers can visit www.revenue.louisiana.gov to update their contact information. To file taxes electronically, taxpayers can visit Louisiana File Online, the state’s free web portal for individual and business tax filers at www.revenue.louisiana.gov/fileonline.
With Louisiana File Online, taxpayers can:
? File returns and pay taxes electronically
? Check the status of individual income tax refunds
? Amend tax returns
? View business tax information for current and previous years
There are no fees associated with the use of Louisiana File Online. Taxpayers may also use commercial tax preparation software to file their state income taxes.
Taxpayers can check the status of a refund by visiting: www.revenue.louisiana.gov/refund or by calling 1-888-829-3071. Taxpayers should note these applications are updated only once every business morning with the latest information on refunds. Taxpayers should only call LDR once their return has exceeded the expected processing times of 60 days for electronic returns and 14 weeks for paper returns.
Citizens needing 2015 state income tax forms will be able to download them on January 19 at www.revenue.louisiana.gov/taxforms. In addition, the Department provides important tips for taxpayers in selecting a preparer and operates a fraud hotline (1-866-940-7053).
Tips for Taxpayers
LDR recommends the following steps to ensure the fastest, most accurate tax return and refund processing:
? File electronically – The expected refund processing time for returns filed electronically is up to 60 days; for paper returns, expect to wait 12 to 14 weeks.
? Taxpayers should update personal information if their name or address changed during the tax year.
? Double-check return information – Ensure that all Social Security numbers and tax computations are correct, and that all names and Social Security numbers are in the same order as previous years. Math errors and incorrect tax-table information are leading causes of delayed refunds.
? Include all supporting information such as W-2s; use paperclips, not staples, if filing a paper return.
? Apply for extensions in a timely manner – Extension requests must be filed electronically no later than the May 16 income tax filing deadline.
? If additional tax is due, include the remittance coupon to ensure proper payment posting.
? Make checks or money orders payable to the Louisiana Department of Revenue; do not send cash.
? If filing a paper return, attach the proper label to the mailing envelope.
Basic tips to taxpayers in choosing a reputable tax preparer include:
? Try to find a preparer who will be around to answer questions after the return has been filed.
? Avoid preparers who base their fee on a percentage of the amount of the refund or who claim they can obtain larger refunds than other preparers without first reviewing your returns.
? Review and ask questions before signing a return.
? Ask others that you know who have used that preparer if they were satisfied with the services that they received.
? Ask any preparer that you are considering for references.
? Ask and verify if the preparer belongs to a professional organization that requires its members to pursue continuing education and also holds them accountable to a code of ethics.
? Always question entries on your return that you don’t understand.
? Never sign a blank return.
? Insist that the preparer sign the return and provide his appropriate information on the return.
? The preparer should meet with the taxpayer and go over the return before it is filed.
? Taxpayers should be provided a copy of their return before it is filed.
? Pay attention to media reports of persons who have been convicted of tax fraud.
? Taxpayers should be aware that the information that they provide to their preparer could be used to commit identity theft by an unscrupulous preparer.
Taxpayers should also:
? Remember that they are ultimately responsible for what is included on their tax returns.
? Beware of telephone scams purported to come from LDR and remember that LDR will not:
? Call a taxpayer to demand immediate payment or call about taxes owed without first having mailed a bill.
? Demand the payment of taxes without allowing the taxpayer to question or appeal the amount owed.
? Require the use of a specific method of payment.
? Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the telephone.
? If taxpayer feels that they are a victim of a telephone tax scam, contact:
? LDR Criminal Investigations Division on its fraud hotline at 866.940.7053.
To file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), visit ftc.gov/complaint.