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Avoiding Tax Refund Identity Fraud PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Steve Burke   
Monday, 28 January 2013 16:32

By Jason Alderman

Many people file their income tax returns as early in the year as possible. Some are eager to claim their tax refund right away, while others are simply following their New Year's resolution not to procrastinate until midnight, April 15.

Let me add another good reason to file your taxes right away: tax refund identity fraud.

That's where someone uses your Social Security number (SSN), birth date and other private information to file a fraudulent income tax return in your name and then pockets the resulting tax refund. Often, a victim's first clue is a letter from the IRS contesting their legitimate tax return, saying one has already been processed under that name. It can take months – and mounds of paperwork – to unravel the mess.

This scam has proliferated in recent years thanks to a confluence of events:

  • There's a thriving black market in personal information stolen from healthcare facilities, nursing homes, schools, insurance companies and other institutions that require an SSN as identification.
  • The IRS is pressured to begin issuing refunds shortly after taxpayers start filing returns in mid-January, even though employers and financial institutions aren't required to submit withholding and income documentation until the end of March. Thus, disparities often aren't caught until months later.
  • The growing popularity of electronic filing, where hard-copy documentation (like W-2 and 1099 forms) isn't required.
  • Many people receive refunds via direct deposit and prepaid debit cards. Criminals open and close accounts using bogus addresses long before the theft has been detected.

Thanks to severe budget cuts and chronic understaffing – not to mention constantly playing whack-a-mole with thieves who dream up new schemes – the IRS is hard-pressed to keep up. In one extreme example, the agency issued more than $3.3 million in refunds for 2,137 tax returns filed to a single address.

But all is not lost. The IRS has significantly beefed up its fraud-prevention efforts. In 2011, they intercepted nearly 262,000 fraudulent tax returns seeking almost $1.5 billion in refunds related to identity theft. And they now issue special personal identification numbers (PINs) to impacted taxpayers to protect their future tax filings.

So what should you do if you've been victimized? Typically, the IRS will send you a notice that:

  • More than one tax return for you was filed;
  • You have a balance due, refund offset or have had collection actions taken against you for a year in which you didn't file a return; or
  • IRS records indicate you received wages from an employer you don't recognize. This could indicate that someone has used your personal information to get a job.

If you receive such a notice, don't ignore it. Complete an Identity Theft Affidavit (IRS Form 14039 at www.irs.gov) and return it with a copy of the notice to the address provided on the notice. If you did not receive a notice but believe you may be at risk, the form contains separate submission instructions.

The IRS's Identity Theft Protection website (www.irs.gov/uac/Identity-Protection) includes tons of helpful information, including ways to tell whether your identity may have been stolen, how to report a breach and tips to avoid identity theft.

And finally, file your tax return as early as possible to beat potential scammers to the punch. If you owe money, you can always file your return now and mail the payment by the April 15 deadline.

 
2013 Doodle 4 Google Contest PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Robert Haus   
Saturday, 26 January 2013 10:24

The Google "doodles" are the fun versions of the Google logo that you see on the Google homepage throughout the year in celebration of special events and people. Once a year, the company gives K-12 students across the U.S. the chance to display their own Google doodle on www.google.com through the Doodle 4 Google contest.

Google just announced the 2013 Doodle 4 Google contest, with the theme “My Best Day Ever...” This is a chance to give students a blank canvas to exercise their creative imagination and doodle about their best day ever -- be that in the past, present or future. Google is excited to see moments or thoughts that range from very small and personal to broad and far reaching -- maybe even out of this universe.

The stakes are high: in addition to seeing their doodle displayed on Google’s homepage in May, the winner will also receive a $30,000 college scholarship and a $50,000 technology grant for their school. Last year, Google received a record 114,000 submissions.

Students can submit doodles until March 22, and Google will announce a winner from every single state on May 1. Last year’s Iowa winner was Alexis Zaugg, from Southdale Elementary School in Cedar Falls, IA.

You can find the full blog post announcing the contest below. More information, including all contest rules, is available at google.com/doodle4google. Please also feel free to use the videos I’ve included to help your story come to life, and I’m happy to provide images of past years’ winning doodles.

Please let me know if you have any questions. We’re hoping to get the word out to students across Iowa, so we’d appreciate your help in communicating about the contest.

 
Governor Quinn Urges Working Families to Apply for Newly-Increased Earned Income Tax Credit PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Erin Wilson   
Saturday, 26 January 2013 10:09

Launches EITC.Illinois.Gov to Help More People Get More of Their Money Back Through Awareness and Preparation Assistance  

CHICAGO – January 25, 2013. Governor Pat Quinn today was joined by numerous community organizations to celebrate the one-year anniversary of his successful push for major tax relief for working families across Illinois. Governor Quinn fought for and signed legislation in 2012 that doubles the state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) over the next two years, which is expected to save working families an extra $105 million a year. The same legislation also benefits all taxpayers by improving the value of the personal exemption by indexing it to inflation. Today’s event is part of the governor’s effort to drive economic growth and support working families across Illinois.

“Last year I fought to double the tax relief available for working families in Illinois because it is the best way to fight poverty and grow our economy,” Governor Quinn said. “But you cannot benefit from this tax relief unless you apply for it. Taxpayers who may be eligible should visit EITC.illinois.gov to learn more and take advantage of tax preparation assistance available.”

The governor’s efforts last year resulted in the biggest increase in the Illinois EITC since its inception in 2000. It boosted the state EITC from 5 percent of the federal EITC in 2011 to 7.5 percent in 2012. In 2013, it has risen to 10 percent of federal EITC. Almost 2.5 million Illinois residents benefited from the EITC in 2011.

Under the new law, a single mother with one child, earning minimum wage ($12,800 a year), will save $154 on her state income taxes for 2012 ($205 in 2013). A married couple with three children earning $30,000 a year will save $199 on their 2012 state income taxes ($265 in 2013). A married couple with three children and earning just over $50,000 could be eligible for up to $5,891 in state and federal tax relief. For more information about how much money taxpayers could save, visit EITC.Illinois.gov.

The EITC is uniquely pro-growth and pro-family. Available only to workers who are earning income, this tax credit provides incentive to work as well as much-needed tax relief to the lowest-income families. The EITC also generates local economic growth by increasing consumer spending. A 2006 Brookings Institution study found that every dollar a family saves through this tax credit translates into $1.58 of activity in local economies and can help businesses avoid layoffs, hire employees and pave the way for future growth.

How to Benefit from the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)

To benefit from Illinois’ EITC, also known as the Earned Income Credit (EIC), taxpayers must include it on their tax returns. The not-for-profit Center for Economic Progress (CEP) estimates that between 10 and 20 percent of eligible taxpayers did not file for EITC last year.

“At the CEP we're excited to serve thousands of Illinois families who will benefit from the expanded state EITC,” said David Marzhal, president of the Center for Economic Progress. “Not only will most of our taxpayers get a bigger state refund, but they'll not pay one cent to get their taxes done by our certified and highly trained volunteers.”

To help working families achieve the maximum savings on their taxes, the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) partners with the Center for Economic Tax Counseling Project to provide free tax preparation assistance at tax assistance centers across the state. The services are provided free of charge to families making less than $50,000 annually and to individuals with yearly incomes under $25,000. More than 25,000 Illinois taxpayers filed returns through the program in the 2011 tax season, with more than $45 million in state and federal tax refunds returned to clients.

DHS also funds the Tax Assistance Program (TAP) which has nearly 20 locations in Chicago and the suburbs. TAP recruits tax professionals to volunteer to assist low-income families. DHS also works with its clients and those who found jobs and have left DHS programs to educate them about tax preparation programs and ways to ensure they receive the maximum refund on their tax returns.

A list of locations across the state that offer free tax assistance to eligible individuals is attached.

For more information on the Tax Counseling Project, contact the Center for Economic Progress in Chicago at 312-630-0273, or call the toll-free statewide number at888-827-8511. For information on the Tax Assistance Program call 312-409-1555 or 312-409-4318 (Spanish). Details are also available on the DHS website at www.dhs.state.il.usand the Department of Revenue website at www.revenue.state.il.us.

Information about filing federal taxes online can be found at www.irs.gov.

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Iowa Supreme Court Opinions January 25, 2013 PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Iowa Judicial Branch   
Saturday, 26 January 2013 09:41

Notice: The opinions posted on this site are slip opinions only. Under the Rules of Appellate Procedure a party has a limited number of days to request a rehearing after the filing of an opinion. Also, all slip opinions are subject to modification or correction by the court. Therefore, opinions on this site are not to be considered the final decisions of the court. The official published opinions of the Iowa Supreme Court are those published in the North Western Reporter published by West Group.
Opinions released before April 2006 and available in the archives are posted in Word format. Opinions released after April 2006 are posted to the website in PDF (Portable Document Format).   Note: To open a PDF you must have the free Acrobat Reader installed. PDF format preserves the original appearance of a document without requiring you to possess the software that created that document. For more information about PDF read: Using the Adobe Reader.
For your convenience, the Judicial Branch offers a free e-mail notification service for Supreme Court opinions, Court of Appeals opinions, press releases and orders. To subscribe, click here.
NOTE: Copies of these opinions may be obtained from the Clerk of the Supreme Court, Judicial Branch Building, 1111 East Court Avenue, Des Moines, IA 50319, for a fee of fifty cents per page.
No. 11–1262
STATE OF IOWA vs. KAREN SUE HUSTON
No. 11–1967
IN THE MATTER OF TRUST #T-1 OF MARY FAYE TRIMBLE, JUDITH R. CUNNINGHAM, Trustee

 
Governor Quinn Takes Bill Action **Thursday, January 24, 2013** PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Leslie Wertheimer   
Saturday, 26 January 2013 09:38

CHICAGO– January 24, 2013. Governor Pat Quinn today took action on the following bill:

Bill No.: SB 3233  

An Act Concerning: Insurance 

Allows health maintenance organizations to charge deductibles for basic health care services, which may not exceed limits set by the IRS.

Action: Signed

Effective Date: Immediately

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