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Senator Brown shares important tax tips

The following is a column by US Senator Sherrod Brown, pictured, (D-OH) offering tax tips for Ohio families.

With April 15th just around the corner, millions of Ohioans are beginning to file their federal income taxes. Before you get to work on your returns, Senator Brown has a few tips on the resources available to help Ohio tax filers.

Get forms and booklets. All IRS forms and instructions, along with FAQs and Tax Tips, are available through the IRS website. In addition, the most common forms are available at most local libraries, post offices, and military installations. If you need a paper copy of any form or booklet, you can also place an order with the IRS by calling 1-800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

Get help filing your taxes. If you earn $51,000 per year or less, you could be eligible for free tax assistance through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. VITA connects you with an IRS-certified tax assistant in your community to help you file your return and make sure that you take advantage of the many tax credits available to help working families.

If you are 60 or older, you could also be eligible for tax assistance through the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) Program, which offers free assistance to seniors. TCE assistants are IRS-certified and specialize in pension and retirement issues to better assist senior taxpayers.

To locate the nearest VITA or TCE site, click here.

File online for free. If your adjusted gross income (AGI) was less than $57,000, you’re eligible to use brand-name tax software at no cost through the IRS Free File online system. All taxpayers are eligible to file their taxes for free through the IRS Free File Fillable Forms. To file online, click here.

Remember credits for working individuals and families. Low- and middle-income working families and individuals can keep more of the money they earned throughout the year by claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), but many Ohioans don’t take advantage of the credit because they don’t know it exists or don’t think they’re eligible. Last year, one in five people who were eligible for the EITC did not claim it, costing them hundreds or thousands of dollars. Eligibility is determined by income and ranges from $14,340 to $51,567, depending on your family size. If you qualify, you could receive a tax deduction or refund. To find out if you qualify, click here.

Families with children can also claim the Child Tax Credit (CTC), which can help families save up to $1,000 per dependent child under age 17. To find out if you qualify, click here.

Get help with college costs. On January 1, 2013, Congress extended a tax credit to help make higher education affordable for students and parents. The American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) allows low- and middle-income students or parents to deduct up to $2,500 from their tax bill or to receive a refund of to $1,000 per student. There has been a delay in processing for AOTC claims for the 2013 tax season, but taxpayers can now begin filing forms that include the AOTC. For more information, click here.

Get credits for child and dependent care. Many parents who work or are looking for work must pay for child care. If you paid someone for care of a child under 13 or for care of a dependent this year, you could qualify for a tax credit. For more information, click here.

Get your tax return faster. While tax refunds can be distributed as a check, you will receive your refund more quickly if you have your refund deposited directly to your bank account. Direct deposit keeps your refund safe and will ensure that you claim your refund as quickly as possible.

You can also choose to save your refund for yourself or a family member by purchasing up to $5,000 in Savings Bonds. Savings Bonds are a safe way to save for future retirement, education costs, or special events without needing a bank account. For more information on direct deposit or putting your refund into a Savings Bond, click here.

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