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by Abigail Van Buren

Tax Preparer Offers Advice You Can Take to the Bank

DEAR ABBY: Tax time is approaching. As a tax practitioner, I am asking for your help. Please inform your readers:

(1) Same- or next-day "refunds" are NOT refunds. They are super-high interest loans with interest rates higher than some loan sharks charge! If you file early, you can get your money back in as little as two weeks.

(2) Allow the practitioner to use a direct-deposit refund. If you don't, your return could take up to 10 days longer to be printed, sorted and mailed. The IRS already knows about every bank account you have, so you have nothing to fear.

(3) Choose a practitioner who will be there after the end of April. Don't use a tax mill that disappears after three or four months.

(4) Make sure the preparer signs your return. IT'S THE LAW. If he or she refuses, do not pay for or accept the return. Remember, you are just as responsible for your tax preparer's mistakes as he or she is for yours.

(5) Don't ask the preparer to do something illegal. (You could wind up as cellmates.)

(6) Just because somebody you know took a certain tax deduction does not mean you're also eligible.

(7) The IRS now requires Social Security numbers for each member of your family. Most hospitals arrange for numbers to be issued at birth. You can also obtain one from your local Social Security office. If you are a nonresident alien, the local IRS office will issue you a temporary number for identification purposes while you are in this country.

Thanks for your help in getting this information out, Abby. -- TAX TIPS FROM A PROFESSIONAL

DEAR PROFESSIONAL: As people scramble to get their tax filing done, it's tempting to take a few shortcuts. Thank you for your warnings and helpful suggestions. I hope my readers will take them to heart.

DEAR ABBY: My letter is in response to "Terrified in the South," who discovered her husband's interest in child pornography. "Terrified" asked whether you thought her husband could be a child molester and said that she couldn't stand the thought of her husband touching her "if he ... hurt a child like that."

Abby, her husband doesn't need to physically touch a child to "hurt a child like that"; his desire for child pornography creates and fuels the demand for the sexual exploitation of children. Please inform your readers that the very act of downloading or viewing child pornography is a criminal act and creates the environment for children to be sexually abused by SOMEONE.

The U.S. Customs Service investigates the trafficking of child pornography via the Internet. If your readers suspect someone is involved with child pornography over the Internet, referrals can be made by calling 1-800-BE ALERT (1-800-232-5378) or via e-mail to c3(at)customs.treas.gov. -- GABRIEL HAGAN, SPECIAL AGENT, U.S. CUSTOMS SERVICE

DEAR SPECIAL AGENT HAGAN: Thank you for your expertise on this subject. Child pornography is a vice that affects everyone whose lives are in any way touched by it. I suspect your letter will be clipped and saved by concerned readers.

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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