Some Last-Minute Tax Advice!
It’s less than a week away from tax day—it’s on Monday, April 18th this year—but a considerable percentage of taxpayers have yet to sit down and file. If you’re one of the many dreading the looming deadline, you’re in luck! We have a certified tax preparer on hand to walk you through the rough patches.
Michelle Kuchinsky, a volunteer tax preparer with Community Tax Aid and business development organizer for Knowledge Commons DC, has picked out some important tips to get you through the filing process. But first, some history!
Globally, there is a history of “tithing” that long predates the modern income tax. The United States instituted its first income tax in 1861 as a way to pay for the Civil War. In 1894, Democrats in Congress imposed the first peacetime income tax in the country in order to offset reductions in tariffs. This first tax was only a 2% tax on income that exceeded $4,000 ($109,000.77 in 2014 dollars)—and fewer than 10% of households had to pay it.
Over time, that 2% tax on income grew. At its height, all income above $200,000 was taxed at 94%! That was in 1944, applied to income over about $2.6 million in 2012-adjusted dollars. Today, all income above $415,050 is taxed at 39.6%, while income below that is taxed at lower rates.
And now some filing tips from Michelle:
- This year, taxes are due on April 18th. Usually, tax day is observed on the 15th, the day before D.C. Emancipation Day, but since April 16th falls on a Saturday (and tax day can’t be on a weekend) it is moved forward to the next business day— Monday, April 18th.
- If you find yourself owing taxes but can’t afford to pay back the full amount before the 18th, pay at least a portion before the deadline. The IRS looks favorably on those who demonstrate that they are at least trying to make their payments.
- If you are a salaried employee (who got a W-2), you should pay your taxes before the end of the year—barring exceptional circumstances, like if you got a promotion or extra money for which taxes were not withheld. If you have no exceptional circumstances but still find yourself owing money, you may have filled out your W-4 form incorrectly. You can fill out a new one online and bring it to your HR department at any time to avoid this problem next year.
- Note that a common mistake when filling out the W-4 is marking Head of Household incorrectly. This designation is reserved for single caregivers. If you are not claiming a dependent (i.e., a child or sick family member), you shouldn’t claim Head of Household.
- If you make less than $62,000 and still have not filed your taxes, you can file them for free here.
- If you make less than $35,000 and are filing on your own, or less than $53,000 and filing as a family, you can come to a Community Tax Aid clinic to have your return prepared by on-site certified tax preparers.
Hope this helps! Have fun filing!
Michelle Kuchinsky is a volunteer tax preparer with Community Tax Aid and a community outreach organizer for Knowledge Commons DC. During the day, you might find her conducting research on meat processing plants for the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. Other interests include cheese, clothing swaps, Shabbat dinners, and Settlers of Catan.