Local News

What is the quickest way to get your tax refund?

Posted January 14, 2009 10:46 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:12 p.m. EDT

— Want a quick tax refund? File your federal tax returns electronically.

With tax season approaching, the Internal Revenue Service is expanding a program that enables taxpayers to file returns online at no charge, promising refunds much faster than for those who mail in paper forms.

In these tough economic times, a lot of taxpayers are counting on those refunds.

“Like the commercial says, 'I need my money now,'” Raleigh resident Theresa Hennegan said.

Hennegan is the mother of an 11-year-old and a 3-month-old. She applied for a loan based on a program linked to the tax refund she could be getting from the government.

“I normally take my time. (But this year), I got to pay bills,” Hennegan said,

Triangle tax offices say they are seeing a sense of urgency among people depending upon their potential tax refund.

“A lot of people may have lost their job last year, so they're interested in filing right away,” said Jim Morgan, with H&R Block.

“Usually our peak starts about the fifth Monday of the year, which is typically the first Monday in February. I see it happening maybe a week earlier this year,” said C.L. Carmichael, with Liberty Tax Service.

The average refund nationally last year was $2,429.

"That's a lot of money for people who are facing hardship," said Terry Lemons, senior spokesman for the IRS. "We encourage people to take a look at their taxes, file electronically and use direct deposit."

You can get your refund in 10 days that way, versus four weeks or longer if you file by mail. Last year, two out of three North Carolinians filed their taxes electronically

“It's quick. The process is quick,” Sharon Tanner, with the North Carolina Department of Revenue, said.

Tanner says filing online also cuts down on paperwork and mistakes.

“Make sure you do things in an honest way and do it accurately,” Tanner said.

About 80 percent of North Carolinians are eligible for the state’s free online filing program. The requirements include age, income level and military status. For more on the program, visit the state Department of Revenue Web site.

Hennegan says she is hoping for the largest refund possible.

“I believe in faith and God, and I believe my bills will get paid,” she said.

You might find yourself eligible for a broad range of credits for which you didn't qualify before. Among them: the Earned Income Tax Credit, education credits and the Recovery Rebate Credit.

The stimulus checks that people received last year actually were an advance payment on the Recovery Rebate Credit. Initial eligibility was determined based on 2007 tax returns.

The Earned Income Tax Credit was designed to help low-income workers by offsetting part of their Social Security and Medicare taxes. Since it boosts take-home pay, it is meant to provide an incentive to work. The maximum income limit is $41,646. That declines based on filing status and the number of children in the household. The maximum credit for 2008 is $4,824, up from $4,716 in 2007.

Friday is the first day to file your taxes electronically. Congress pushed up the filing time by a week this year.