Tax time is near and help is available

As the April 15 federal and state tax-filing deadline approaches, I would like to remind Minnesota taxpayers that there is help available for this sometimes difficult process. Filling out tax forms can be confusing and getting your questions answered up front will save time and frustration in the long run.
People with questions about filing their tax returns can contact:
• Minnesota Department of Revenue
State individual income tax help-line: 651-296-3781 or 1-800-652-9094
Questions can also be e-mailed to indinctax@state.mn.us.
• AccountAbility Minnesota
This organization provides accounting assistance and tax help to low-income individuals and small business owners. AccountAbility has a number of free tax preparation locations and times now through April. For a location near you, check their website at www.accountabilitymn.org or call (651) 287-0187.
• Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)
VITA recruits and trains community members to offer free tax preparation for low-income taxpayers. VITA sites are generally located at community and neighborhood centers, libraries, schools, shopping malls, and other convenient locations. Most locations also offer free electronic filing. To find a VITA site near you call 1-800-906-9887.
When filling out paperwork, families should be aware of the federal earned income credit. To qualify, earned income and adjusted gross income (AGI) must not exceed the following:
• $43,998 ($49,078 married filing jointly) with three or more qualifying children
• $40,964 ($46,044 married filing jointly) with two qualifying children
• $36,052 ($41,132 married filing jointly) with one qualifying child
• $13,660 ($18,740 married filing jointly) with no qualifying children
Taxpayers who qualify for the federal Earned Income Credit also qualify for the Minnesota Working Family Credit. To claim the Earned Income Credit, taxpayers must file the Minnesota individual income tax return (Form M1) using Schedule M1WFC.
The Earned Income Credit worksheets are found in the federal 1040, and 1040A, or 1040EZ instruction booklet. In the 1040 instruction booklet, Worksheet A is used for most taxpayers. Self-employed taxpayers (and statutory employees filing Schedule C) use Worksheet B.
Many Minnesotans use a professional preparer to complete their taxes. If you’re a senior citizen, disabled citizen, or an individual with an income of $30,000 or less ($50,000 or less for families), you are eligible for free tax preparation assistance. To find the site nearest you, please call 651-296-3781 or visit: http://taxes.state.mn.us/vita/pages/free_tax_prep.aspx.
The Property Tax Refund Program for renters and homeowners provides some level of relief to help address the rapidly rising property taxes throughout the state. I encourage all of my constituents to complete a return if they are eligible. There are two homeowner refunds available: one based on household income in proportion to property taxes paid, and one based on a taxpayer’s total property tax increase over the past year.
To qualify for a regular homeowner property tax refund, total household income with no dependents for 2011 must be less than $100,780. The maximum refund under the regular homeowner property tax refund is $2,460.
To qualify for a special homeowner property tax refund, net property tax on the homestead must have increased by more than 12 percent from 2011 to 2012 and the increase must be at least $100. There is no income limit for the special property tax refund and the maximum refund is $1,000.
Renters are also eligible for property tax refunds. As a renter, your total household income for 2011 must be less than $54,620. The maximum renter’s refund is $1,550.
Even if state income taxes have been filed, a separate form is required to apply for the property tax refund. That form, M1PR, and full instructions are available on the Department of Revenue’s website or at many local libraries. The due date for all Property Tax Refund applications is August 15, 2012.
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Senator Sandy Pappas
Sandy Pappas represents District 65, which includes portions of Saint Paul in Ramsey County in the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

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