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.