Consumer Corner with Anita Wilson: A two-day reprieve in tax filing deadline offers time for tips

An Internal Revenue Service 2023 1040 tax form and instructions. Massachusetts residents have until 11:59 p.m. April 17 to file both state and federal income taxes, a two-day extension from the normal deadline due to the state’s Patriots’ Day holiday.

An Internal Revenue Service 2023 1040 tax form and instructions. Massachusetts residents have until 11:59 p.m. April 17 to file both state and federal income taxes, a two-day extension from the normal deadline due to the state’s Patriots’ Day holiday. AP

Anita Wilson

Anita Wilson

Published: 04-10-2024 9:36 AM

Modified: 04-10-2024 5:31 PM


The deadline to file state and federal income taxes is right around the corner. But in Massachusetts, filers have a two-day reprieve thanks to a state holiday.

With Patriots’ Day on April 15 this year, state residents have until 11:59 p.m. on April 17 to file both state and federal income taxes. Meanwhile, whether you are taking advantage of the extra days and have yet to file — or are waiting for a refund — I have some tips to offer.

First of all, if you are looking for help preparing your taxes, Internal Revenue Service offices will be open extended hours leading up to the deadline. Appointments can be made by calling 844-545-5640. Answers to frequently asked questions for federal tax forms can be found at IRS.gov or by calling 800-829-1040. To reach the Department of Revenue for Massachusetts tax questions, call 800-392-6089 or visit their mass.gov/topics/taxes.

New this year, the IRS is offering qualifying Massachusetts residents help in filing both state and federal taxes electronically with a process called IRS Direct File. There are some restrictions on who can use it. You must have lived in the commonwealth — and, importantly, earned all your income in Massachusetts — for the entire year. In addition, IRS Direct File is for residents filing relatively simple tax forms, earning incomes of less than $125,000. To find out if you qualify, go to the IRS website at irs.gov. and find the tab on the home page under “Tools and Applications” to determine if you qualify.

The IRS also offers a Free File Program for those who qualify that provides free online preparation and electronic forms. Information about this and other free online filing options is available at irs.gov and mass.gov.

If you are planning to do your taxes yourself, you can fill out paper forms or use a tax software program. To choose the right program, first determine which tax forms you need to file and make sure they are included in the program. Some situations require more than just the basic forms and schedules. Find out what kind of support the program offers. Is there are fee to talk to someone if you have a question? Check online reviews from sources you trust to determine if the product is right for your situation.

Some taxpayers may choose to hire a tax preparer if their tax situation has changed and becomes more complicated or if they have numerous itemized deductions. Resources for finding a tax professional can be found on the state’s website mass.gov. Here are some red flags to look out for when working with a tax preparer:

■ They promise a big refund without fully reviewing your financial situation.

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■ They only accept payments in cash.

■ They charge fees based on a percentage of the refund.

■ They want the refund deposited into their bank account.

■ They mark your return as “self-prepared” or place a business label rather than signing the form by name.

■ They refuse to sign the return or enter a Preparer Taxpayer Identification Number (PTIN).

■ They ask you to sign a blank or incomplete tax form or file the return without allowing you to review it.

These could be signs that the tax preparer might be looking to maximize their profits or steal your refund. Paid tax preparers are required by the IRS to sign and include their PTIN on tax forms. If they don’t, it could be a sign that they are not certified and you would be responsible if there was a problem with your tax filing, not them.

When waiting for a refund, it’s a good idea to be wary of scam attempts. Scammers know people are waiting for refunds around this time year and try to cash in on that. They might send a text message, an email or call to tell you about your tax refund or offer a tax rebate. The message may include requests for PIN numbers or passwords to deposit the refund. They might ask for personal information such as a Social Security or tax identification numbers. The message might include an attachment or a link to click on to claim your refund.

No matter what they say or how real the message looks, don’t respond. Know that the IRS does not initiate communication with taxpayers by text message, email, phone or through social media. Know that these communications are not restricted to tax season — you may get these imposter messages anytime.

Hang up on IRS imposter phone calls and report them to the U.S. Treasury Inspector General Hotline by calling 800-366-4484 or online at tigta.gov/hotline. If you get an email or text message, take these steps:

■ Don’t reply.

■ Don’t open any attachments or links. They can contain malware that may infect your computer or phone.

■ Forward the email as is to phishing@irs.gov.

■ Delete the original email.

If you want to confirm the status of your federal tax refund, go to the source: irs.gov/wheres-my-refund and mtc.dor.state.ma.us.

If you have a consumer question, contact the Consumer Protection Unit in Greenfield at 413-774-3186 or in Northampton at 413-586-9225 or visit our website, NorthwesternDA.org/consumer-protection-unit.

Anita Wilson is director of the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office Consumer Protection Unit, which is a Local Consumer Program working in cooperation with the Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General.