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January 28, 2010

Department of Revenue Lists Tax Tips and Changes in Tax Laws for Taxpayers Preparing to File Returns

As Missourians begin to start filing their state tax returns, the Missouri Department of Revenue has suggestions to increase the likelihood of quicker processing of tax returns.  The Department is also reminding citizens about new changes in tax laws that could benefit them.

"Most people are just now beginning to receive and organize the tax forms that they'll need to complete their tax returns for Tax Year 2009," said Alana M. Barragán-Scott, director of the Missouri Department of Revenue.  "There are a few simple steps that citizens can take that will make it more likely that their tax returns and refunds will be processed more quickly."

Filing electronically helps taxpayers by eliminating the time it takes to mail paper forms to the Department and back to the taxpayers.  Electronically-submitted returns also have about 16 percent fewer errors than paper returns.  Mistakes can lead to additional information being required and slows the processing of the return.  Electronic returns can also be submitted 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and refunds can be directly deposited into a taxpayer's bank account.

"Last year, the department processed 2.9 million individual income tax returns, and 61 percent of them were filed electronically," Barragán-Scott said.  "On the federal level, 66 percent of U.S. citizens filed their income tax returns electronically.  As people realize the ease and convenience of filing electronically, I believe more citizens will begin to submit their returns in this fashion."

More information about filing electronically is available at http://dor.mo.gov/personal/electronic.php.  

Filing as early as possible also benefits taxpayers.  A majority of citizens file their income tax returns within the last few weeks before the April 15th deadline.  If returns are filed earlier in the tax season, it is more likely that the return will be processed more quickly.  

"Although the date that a tax return is received is not the only factor in how quickly a return is processed, a return is more likely to be handled quicker in February as compared to our extremely busy time in April," the director said.

"Last year, refunds triggered by electronic and paper returns for Tax Year 2008 were issued on average in 20 days," Barragán-Scott continued.  "Some refunds were issued much quicker - such as Property Tax Credit refunds which were issued on average in five days - while other refunds took longer to distribute.  Missourians should know that all tax returns and refunds will be processed as quickly as possible in accordance with the resources available to the Department."

Barragán-Scott stated, however, that filing early should not mean filing carelessly.  The director urged citizens to avoid making common mistakes such as math errors and not signing the return.  She also said that taxpayers should be sure they have all the necessary forms - such as W-2s, bank and investment interest statements, copies of required federal documents and various receipts - included with the return before they remit it to the state.

Barragán-Scott also noted that Missourians should be aware of new tax deductions and exemptions that could benefit them.

One new deduction helps encourage more energy-efficient homes.  The new home energy tax deduction allows citizens to deduct the cost of a home energy audit that is conducted by an energy auditor certified by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.  The cost of the audit and the cost of implementing energy-saving recommendations noted in the audit can be subtracted from a taxpayer's federal adjusted gross income on the Missouri return.  The deduction is capped at $1,000 per year and a total of $2,000 over the life of the program, which expires Dec. 31, 2013.

A new federal law also prohibits states from taxing the income of non-resident spouses who reside in a state solely because their spouse is stationed there on military orders.  For example, if a soldier from Maryland is stationed in Missouri, and the soldier's spouse (who is also from Maryland) comes with the soldier, any income the spouse earns while working here would not be taxable to Missouri.

Some public pension recipients can exclude up to 50 percent of their pension benefits from their Missouri taxable income.  This is an increase from the 35 percent of benefits that could be excluded for Tax Year 2008.  The percentage will be gradually raised to 100 percent by Tax Year 2012.

Details on these changes in law and all other 2009 Tax Year changes can be viewed at the "What's New?" section of the Department's Web site at http://dor.mo.gov/personal/whatsnew/index.php#audit.  

The Department also provides several methods for people to receive assistance if they have questions about their tax returns or need helping preparing their returns.  There are tax assistance centers in Cape Girardeau, Jefferson City, Joplin, Kansas City, St. Joseph, St. Louis and Springfield, and the centers have expanded operation hours through April 30.  Locations, telephone numbers and driving directions to the centers can be viewed at http://dor.mo.gov/contact/assistance.php.  

Citizens with questions about individual income tax returns can e-mail the Department at income@dor.mo.gov.  Military personnel with specific questions about military-related tax issues can e-mail the Department at military@dor.mo.gov.  Customer assistance is also available by calling (573) 751-3505 from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays.

A toll-free, automated phone number to order forms is 1-800-877-6881. The general Web page for Missouri tax forms is at http://dor.mo.gov/forms/ and individual income tax forms are at http://dor.mo.gov/forms/