Information about the CARES Act Economic Impact Payments (Stimulus Checks)

Updated April 27. Originally posted April 6, 2020

IMPORTANT DEADLINES: 

Taxpayers must act NOW to receive Economic Impact Payments by direct deposit. People must use the “Get My Payment” tool by noon Wednesday, May 13, for a chance to get their Economic Impact Payment by direct deposit.

After noon Wednesday, the IRS will begin preparing to mail millions of additional payments to those who haven’t received one yet. Taxpayers can expect to receive these payments beginning in late May. People who use “Get My Payment” before the deadline can still take advantage of the direct deposit option. Get My Payment is available in English and Spanish.

If you get Veterans Affairs benefits (VA benefits) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), did not file tax returns for 2018 and 2019, and have qualifying children, you must register by TUESDAY, May 5th, to get the $500 per child payment. Otherwise, you will have to wait until next year when you file a tax return to receive the payment for your qualifying children. Register here: http://irs.gov/nonfilereip

Many people anticipate receiving the CARES Act’s Economic Impact Payments (Stimulus Checks). Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy wants to make sure you have the information you need to know what to expect and how to get your payment.

Need help?
Book An Initial Consultation
Request a Callback
Call Us at 980-202-7329

Anyone in need of other assistance from Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy can contact us by calling 704-376-1600 (Mecklenburg County), 800-438-1254 (Outside Mecklenburg County) or 800-247-1931 (Linea de Español).

Who is eligible for the payment?

Tax filers with adjusted gross income up to $75,000 for individuals and up to $150,000 for married couples filing joint returns will receive the full payment.

For filers with income above those amounts, the payment amount is reduced by $5 for each $100 above the $75,000/$150,000 thresholds. Single filers with income exceeding $99,000 and $198,000 for joint filers with no children are not eligible. 

Eligible taxpayers who filed tax returns for either 2019 or 2018 will automatically receive an economic impact payment of up to $1,200 for individuals or $2,400 for married couples. Parents also receive $500 for each qualifying child. 

Will the IRS take my payment if I have outstanding IRS debts, federal student loans or other government debts?

No, but the IRS will take your payment to the extent necessary to pay any outstanding child support obligations. 

How will the IRS calculate my payment?

For people who have already filed their 2019 tax returns, the IRS will use this information to calculate the payment amount. For those who have not yet filed their tax return for 2019, the IRS will use information from their 2018 tax filing to calculate the payment.

Most people do not need to take any action. The IRS will calculate and automatically send the payment to those eligible. 

How will the IRS know where to send my payment?

The economic impact payment will be deposited directly into the same banking account reflected on your tax return filed. 

The IRS does not have my direct deposit information. What can I do?

The IRS has an online portal, Get My Payment, for individuals to:

  • Check their payment status
  • Confirm their payment type: direct deposit or check
  • Enter their bank account information for direct deposit if the IRS doesn’t have their direct deposit information and the IRS hasn’t sent their payment yet

How to use Get My Payment

Taxpayers only need a few pieces of information to quickly obtain the status of their payment and, where needed, provide their bank account information. Having a copy of their most recent tax return can help speed the process.

For taxpayers to track the status of their payment, this feature will show taxpayers the payment amount, scheduled delivery date by direct deposit or paper check and if a payment hasn’t been scheduled. They will need to enter basic information including:

  • Social Security number
  • Date of birth, and
  • Mailing address used on their tax return.

Taxpayers needing to add their bank account information to speed receipt of their payment will also need to provide the following additional information:

  • Their Adjusted Gross Income from their most recent tax return submitted, either 2019 or 2018
  • The refund or amount owed from their latest filed tax return
  • Bank account type, account and routing numbers

Get My Payment cannot update bank account information after an Economic Impact Payment has been scheduled for delivery. To help protect against potential fraud, the tool also does not allow people to change bank account information already on file with the IRS. 

Is providing bank account information to the IRS when paying your tax filing liability good enough?

No, people who paid electronically are going to have to input deposit account information. Go to Get My Payment.

When will payments begin?

Taxpayers with direct deposit information on file with the IRS should see their payment in their bank accounts beginning the week of April 13, while others might have to wait up to five months to receive paper checks. 

The first checks should go to the 60 million taxpayers with direct deposit information from their 2018 or 2019 tax returns on file with the IRS. After that, the IRS will issue about 5 million paper checks per week to as many as 100 million individuals who don’t have direct deposit information on file in a process that could take up to 20 weeks to complete. 

What about taxpayers who don’t have bank accounts?

The U.S. Treasury Department and the IRS are working with digital companies and prepaid debit card providers to ensure there are other avenues for those taxpayers get their money quickly. 

I receive SS/VA benefits and I am not typically required to file a tax return. Can I still receive my payment?

Yes. Individuals who receive Social Security benefits (Social Security retirement, disability income (SSDI), supplemental income (SSI) or Survivors Benefits) or Veterans Affairs benefits (disability compensation, pension or survivors benefits) who didn’t file tax returns in 2018 or 2019 won’t need to file tax returns to receive their payments. 

They should receive the additional money just as they would their Social Security or VA benefits. The IRS will use the information provided by the Social Security Administration/VA to generate the $1,200 Economic Impact Payments. Recipients will get their payment as a direct deposit or by paper check, just as they normally would.

SPECIAL NOTES: Unless they filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return, recipients of Social Security or VA benefits who began receiving their benefits in 2020 will need to use the IRS’ Non-Filers: Enter Your Payment Info option to claim their $1,200 payment.

And, those recipients of Social Security or VA benefits who have qualifying children under age 17 should use the IRS’ Non-Filers: Enter Your Payment Info option to claim the $500 per child payment.

I am not typically required to file a tax return because I am low-income. Can I still receive my payment?

Yes. Unless they filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return, low-income individuals who are otherwise not required to file a tax return will need to use the IRS’ Non-Filers: Enter Your Payment Info option to claim their payment.

I have not filed my tax return for 2018 or 2019. Can I still receive a payment?

Yes. The IRS urges anyone with a tax filing obligation who has not yet filed a tax return for 2018 or 2019 to file as soon as they can to receive a payment. Taxpayers should include direct deposit banking information on the return. Visit IRS Free File

If I receive SSI or a VA pension will my payment be considered income?

Please note that the Social Security Administration and Department of Veterans Affairs will not consider the payments as income, and the payments are excluded from resources for 12 months.

What about taxpayers with Individual Tax Identification Numbers (ITINs)?

Immigrants with ITINs are not eligible for the $1,200 payments. 

What about mixed-status families (SSN valid for employment and ITIN on the same tax return)?

If a husband, wife or any claimed dependent has an ITIN rather than a Social Security Number (SSN), it appears that no member of the family will get the payment (Exception for those serving in the Armed Services). 

Of course, the couple could leave dependents with ITINs off their tax return. And filing separately may be an option, however, the couple may miss out on some other refundable credits, such as the Additional Child Tax Credit and education credits, if they do so.

I need to file a tax return. How long are payments available?

For those concerned about visiting a tax professional or local community organization in person to get help with a tax return, these economic impact payments will be available throughout the rest of 2020.

Does someone who has died qualify for the payment?

No. A payment made to someone who died before receipt of the payment should be returned to the IRS by following the instructions for repayments. Return the entire payment unless the payment was made to joint filers and one spouse had not died before receipt of the payment, in which case, you only need to return the portion of the payment made on account of the decedent. This amount will be $1,200 unless adjusted gross income exceeded $150,000.

Does someone who is incarcerated qualify for the payment?

No. A payment made to someone who is incarcerated should be returned to the IRS by following the instructions for repayments. For a payment made with respect to a joint return where only one spouse is incarcerated, you only need to return the portion of the payment made on account of the incarcerated spouse. This amount will be $1,200 unless adjusted gross income exceeded $150,000.

What should I do to return a payment?

You should return the payment as described below.

If the payment was a paper check:

  • Write “Void” in the endorsement section on the back of the check.
  • Mail the voided Treasury check immediately to the appropriate IRS location listed below.
  • Don’t staple, bend, or paper clip the check.
  • Include a note stating the reason for returning the check.

If the payment was a paper check and you have cashed it, or if the payment was a direct deposit:

  • Submit a personal check, money order, etc., immediately to the appropriate IRS location listed below.
  • Write on the check/money order made payable to “U.S. Treasury” and write 2020EIP, and the taxpayer identification number (social security number,  or individual taxpayer identification number) of the recipient of the check.
  • Include a brief explanation of the reason for returning the payment

Where can I get more information?

The IRS will post all key information on IRS.gov/coronavirus as soon as it becomes available.

The IRS has a reduced staff in many of its offices but remains committed to helping eligible individuals receive their payments expeditiously. Check for updated information on IRS.gov/coronavirus rather than calling IRS assisters who are helping process 2019 returns.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy launches new projects to support COVID-19 relief

The need is everywhere. That’s why we’re here.

Now more than ever, our community needs a champion to ensure equal access to justice for ALL during these challenging times. Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is here to help anyone facing issues of safety, financial security and family stability during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

The Advocacy Center is still providing services in the areas of consumer protection, domestic violence, ex-offender re-entry, healthcare access, home preservation, immigration, income security and tax disputes, while working to ensure vulnerable populations, such as children, immigrants, people living with disabilities, seniors and veterans have the assistance they need during this critical time.

As needs continue to evolve, the Advocacy Center has been adapting its services to effectively serve the community, launching three new COVID-19 specific initiatives to help those in need:

Unemployment Insurance COVID-19 Response Project

Thousands of North Carolinians have lost their jobs due to COVID-19 and are seeking financial assistance through the state’s Unemployment Insurance Program.

The overwhelming volume of applications paired with implementing new assistance programs under the federal CARES Act has caused significant delays, making the process more confusing for applicants trying to apply.

The Unemployment Insurance COVID-19 Response Project helps people who have lost work due to COVID-19 understand their eligibility and navigate the application process to receive unemployment benefits.

While Advocacy Center staff cannot help applicants fill out the necessary paperwork, they can answer questions about the process.

How to apply for unemployment benefits:

Anyone needing assistance can call the Unemployment Insurance COVID-19 Response Project hotline, 980-256-3979 and leave a message to receive assistance in English or Spanish.

Learn more about the project.

Help Understanding the Economic Impact Payments (Stimulus Checks) from the CARES Act

Many people anticipate receiving the CARES Act’s Economic Impact Payments (Stimulus Checks) as additional financial support. Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy wants to make sure they have the necessary information to know what to expect and how to get a payment.

Anyone with questions about how to get their payment or any other tax issues can contact our N.C. Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic by calling 980-202-7329 or filling out an online assistance request.

Check out our list of FAQs regarding the payments.

Watch our latest Facebook Live discussion on what people can expect as the government issues payments.

CARES Act Paycheck Protection Program Support for Local Non-Profits

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy recognizes the important role that our community nonprofits are playing in Coronavirus response while at the same time being heavily impacted by the pandemic. That’s why the Advocacy Center, along with its pro bono partners, is providing free assistance to help Charlotte-area 501(c)(3) organizations understand the process and apply to get federal aid.

The Paycheck Protection Program of the CARES Act made $350 billion available in small business loans. While most of this money has already been distributed, Congress will likely pass additional funding for small business loans as soon as this week.

Many 501(c)(3) organizations are eligible for these loans, and a significant portion of the loans to nonprofits can be forgiven if certain criteria are met. If you think your nonprofit organization may qualify for a loan and want help understanding the rules governing eligibility, repayment and forgiveness for the loan, we may be able to provide free legal advice for you.

Call Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy at 980-256-3791 for assistance.

Información sobre Pagos de Impacto Económico de la Ley CARES

Read in English
Muchas personas anticipan recibir los Pagos de Impacto Económico de la Ley CARES (por sus siglas en ingles). El Centro de Apoyo Legal de Charlotte quiere asegurarse de que las personas tenga la información que necesita para saber qué esperar y cómo obtener su pago.

Cualquier persona con preguntas adicionales sobre cómo obtener su pago puede comunicarse con nuestra Clínica de Impuestos para contribuyentes de bajos ingresos de Carolina del Norte llamando al 980-202-7329 o completando una solicitud de asistencia en línea.

Cualquier persona que necesite otra ayuda del El Centro de Apoyo Legal de Charlotte puede contactarnos llamando al 704-376-1600 (Condado de Mecklenburg), 800-438-1254 (Fuera del Condado de Mecklenburg) o al 800-247-1931 (Línea de Español).

¿Quién es elegible para el pago?

Los contribuyentes con ingresos brutos ajustados de hasta $ 75,000 para individuos y hasta $ 150,000 para parejas casadas que presenten declaraciones conjuntas recibirán el pago completo.

Para los declarantes con ingresos superiores a esos montos, el monto del pago se reduce en $ 5 por cada $ 100 por encima de los umbrales de $ 75,000 / $ 150,000. Los declarantes solteros con ingresos superiores a $ 99,000 y $ 198,000 para declarantes conjuntos sin hijos no son elegibles.

Los contribuyentes elegibles que presentaron declaraciones de impuestos para 2019 o 2018 recibirán automáticamente un pago de impacto económico de hasta $ 1,200 para individuos o $ 2,400 para parejas casadas. Los padres también reciben $ 500 por cada niño calificado.

¿El IRS tomará mi pago si tengo deudas pendientes del IRS, préstamos estudiantiles federales u otras deudas del gobierno?

No, pero el IRS tomará su pago en la medida necesaria para pagar las obligaciones de manutención infantil pendientes.

¿Cómo calculará el IRS mi pago?

Para las personas que ya presentaron sus declaraciones de impuestos de 2019, el IRS utilizará esta información para calcular el monto del pago. Para aquellos que aún no han presentado su declaración de impuestos para 2019, el IRS utilizará la información de su declaración de impuestos de 2018 para calcular el pago.

La mayoría de las personas no necesitan tomar ninguna medida. El IRS calculará y enviará automáticamente el pago a los elegibles.

¿Cómo sabrá el IRS dónde enviar mi pago?

El pago de impacto económico se depositará directamente en la misma cuenta bancaria reflejada en su declaración de impuestos presentada.

El IRS no tiene mi información de depósito directo. ¿Que puedo hacer?

En las próximas semanas, el Departamento del Tesoro de los EE. UU. Planea desarrollar un portal en línea para que las personas proporcionen su información bancaria al IRS en línea para que las personas puedan recibir pagos de inmediato en lugar de cheques por correo.

Esos contribuyentes podrían obtener sus pagos más rápidamente al proporcionar su información de depósito directo al IRS en una nueva aplicación que está en proceso. Esta aplicación será como la popular aplicación de la temporada de presentación “¿Dónde está mi reembolso?” Le permitirá a los contribuyentes ver dónde están sus fondos bajo esta nueva ley. El nuevo portal estará disponible pronto.

¿Cuándo comenzarán los pagos?

Los contribuyentes con información de depósito directo en el archivo del IRS deben ver su pago en sus cuentas bancarias a partir de la semana del 13 de abril, mientras que otros tendrán que esperar hasta cinco meses para recibir cheques en papel.

Los primeros cheques deben ir a los 60 millones de contribuyentes con información de depósito directo de sus declaraciones de impuestos de 2018 o 2019 en el archivo del IRS. Después de eso, a partir de la primera semana de mayo, el IRS emitirá aproximadamente 5 millones de cheques en papel por semana a hasta 100 millones de personas que no tienen información de depósito directo en el archivo, en un proceso que podría tomar hasta 20 semanas para completar.

¿Qué pasa con los contribuyentes que no tienen cuentas bancarias?

El Departamento del Tesoro de los EE. UU. Y el IRS están trabajando con compañías digitales y proveedores de tarjetas de débito prepagas para garantizar que haya otras vías para que los contribuyentes obtengan su dinero rápidamente.

Normalmente no estoy obligado a presentar una declaración de impuestos. ¿Todavía puedo recibir mi pago?

Si. Las personas que reciben beneficios de jubilación, discapacidad o sobrevivientes del Seguro Social que no presentan declaraciones de impuestos no necesitarán presentar declaraciones para recibir sus cheques.

Deberían recibir el dinero adicional tal como lo harían con sus beneficios del Seguro Social. El IRS utilizará la información en el Formulario SSA-1099 y el Formulario RRB-1099 para generar $ 1,200 Pagos de Impacto Económico a los destinatarios del Seguro Social que no presentaron declaraciones de impuestos en 2018 o 2019. Los destinatarios recibirán estos pagos como depósito directo o en papel verificar, tal como normalmente recibirían sus beneficios.

SIN EMBARGO: Algunos contribuyentes de bajos ingresos, personas mayores y personas con discapacidades que reciben Ingresos de Seguridad Suplementarios (SSI) y veteranos que reciben compensación y / o pensiones por discapacidad del VA que de otra manera no están obligados a presentar una declaración de impuestos deberán presentar una declaración simple para obteer su pago. IRS.gov/coronavirus pronto proporcionará información para instruir a las personas de estos grupos sobre cómo presentar una declaración de impuestos de 2019 con información simple, pero necesaria, que incluye su estado civil, el número de dependientes y la información de la cuenta bancaria de depósito directo.

El 4 de abril, TurboTax presentó un portal en línea donde los estadounidenses de bajos ingresos que no presentan una declaración de impuestos pueden enviar su información al IRS para recibir su pago de estímulo lo antes posible. Los no declarantes pueden proporcionar sus datos de depósito directo o dirección de correo y elegir cómo desean recibir su cheque de estímulo.

No he presentado mi declaración de impuestos para 2018 o 2019. ¿Todavía puedo recibir un pago?

Si. El IRS insta a cualquier persona con una obligación de presentar una declaración de impuestos que aún no haya presentado una declaración de impuestos para 2018 o 2019 a presentarla tan pronto como les sea posible para recibir un pago. Los contribuyentes deben incluir información bancaria de depósito directo en la declaración.

Si recibo SSI, ¿mi pago se considerará ingreso?

Tenga en cuenta que la Administración del Seguro Social no considerará los pagos como ingresos para los beneficiarios de SSI, y los pagos están excluidos de los recursos durante 12 meses.

¿Qué pasa con los contribuyentes con números de identificación fiscal individual (ITIN)?

Los inmigrantes con ITIN no son elegibles para los pagos de $ 1,200.

¿Qué pasa con las familias de estatus mixto (SSN válido para empleo e ITIN en la misma declaración de impuestos)?

Si un esposo, esposa o cualquier dependiente reclamado tiene un ITIN en lugar de un Número de Seguro Social, ningún miembro de la familia recibirá el pago (Excepción para aquellos que prestan servicios en los Servicios Armados).

Por supuesto, la pareja podría dejar a sus dependientes con ITIN fuera de su declaración de impuestos. Y presentar una declaración por separado puede ser una opción, sin embargo, la pareja puede perder otros créditos reembolsables, como el Crédito Tributario Adicional por Hijo y los créditos educativos, si lo hacen.

Necesito presentar una declaración de impuestos. ¿Durante cuánto tiempo están disponibles los pagos?

Para aquellos preocupados por visitar en persona a un profesional de impuestos u organización comunitaria local para obtener ayuda con una declaración de impuestos, estos pagos de impacto económico estarán disponibles durante el resto de 2020.

¿Dónde puedo obtener más información?

El IRS publicará toda la información clave en IRS.gov/coronavirus tan pronto como esté disponible.

El IRS tiene un personal reducido en muchas de sus oficinas, pero sigue comprometido a ayudar a las personas elegibles a recibir sus pagos rápidamente. Busque información actualizada en IRS.gov/coronavirus en lugar de llamar a los asistentes del IRS que están ayudando a procesar las devoluciones de 2019.

COVID-19 Stimulus Payments: Protect Yourself from Scams

From Arthur Bartlett, director of the N.C. Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic:

WARNING: The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is warning the public not to fall victim to a COVID-19 scam in which scammers are trying to intercept COVID-19 stimulus payments meant to provide financial support for Americans during the pandemic.

For most people, payments will be made as a direct deposit into their bank accounts, but some will receive a paper check.

Criminals and scammers may try and take advantage of you by having you:

  • Sign your Stimulus Check over to them.
  • “Verify” your filing information in order to receive your stimulus payment.
  • They may also try to obtain and use your personal information, including your Social Security Number, to file a false tax return to claim your stimulus payment.

Please know, the IRS will not call or email you to “verify” your payment details. Do not give out your personal information, like a bank account, debit account or PayPal account information to anyone claiming to be from the IRS.

If you do receive a call, do not engage with the scammers or thieves, just hang up.

If you receive texts or emails claiming that you can get your money faster by sending personal information or clicking on links, delete them.

In addition, if you receive a “check” in the mail now, it’s a fraud. It will take the Treasury Department a few weeks to distribute the payments.

Or if you receive a “check” for an odd amount or a check that requires you to verify the check online or by calling a number, it’s a fraud.

Retirees have been highlighted as a group particularly vulnerable to scams. From the IRS:

“The IRS also reminds retirees who don’t normally have a requirement to file a tax return that no action on their part is needed to receive their $1,200 economic impact payment. Seniors should be especially careful during this period. The IRS reminds retirees – including recipients of Forms SSA-1099 and RRB-1099 − that no one from the agency will be reaching out to them by phone, email, mail or in person asking for any kind of information to complete their economic impact payment, also sometimes referred to as rebates or stimulus payments. The IRS is sending these $1,200 payments automatically to retirees – no additional action or information is needed on their part to receive this.”

Read more about the warning issued by the IRS

We’re here to help: If you have any questions, please reach out to Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s N.C. Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic by calling 704-376-1600 (Mecklenburg County), 800-438-1254 (Outside Mecklenburg County), 800-247-1931 (Linea de Español), or by submitting a contact form.

What NOT to do when filing your taxes

Filing taxes can be an overwhelming task, often because taxpayers are afraid of making mistakes. And there’s a good reason for some to feel that way: seemingly small mistakes made when filing your taxes can result in a major issue with the IRS down the road.

Learn what you need to do to file properly, protect yourself and ensure you have met all your obligations as a taxpayer.

What NOT to do when filing taxes:

  1. DO NOT forget to request and keep a copy of your filed tax return.
  2. DO NOT claim education credits on your tax return if you or one your dependents did not attend college.
  3. DO NOT file as “Married Filing Jointly,” if you and your partner are not married to each other.
  4. DO NOT file as “Head of Household,” if you are married and your spouse lived with you at the end of 2019, even if one spouse has a Social Security Number and the other has an ITIN.
  5. If you are self-employed, DO NOT forget to keep proof of your business income and business expenses, such as receipts.

Get free assistance preparing your taxes

Taxpayers who made less than $56,000 in 2019 can get FREE tax preparation services at Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites throughout tax season. Find one near you today!

Workers with ITINs: Have you renewed your number with the IRS?

What is an ITIN? ITINs, Individual Tax Identification Numbers is a processing number the IRS issues to people who do not have a social security number but are required to have an identification number for tax purposes. ITINs do not serve any purpose other than federal tax reporting.

The IRS sends notices to taxpayers with ITINs informing them of when to renew their ITIN. If you received a letter to renew your ITIN, but you did not, then it has expired and needs renewal.

If you have filed taxes with an expired ITIN, refunds from tax credits and dependent exemptions will be held until you renew your ITIN.

The ITIN renewal process is the same as the application for a new ITIN. You must complete IRS Form W-7 and check “Renew Existing ITIN” at the top of the form.  You are still required to submit identifying documents.

Some local IRS offices can verify identification documents you need to renew your ITIN.

The Taxpayer Assistance Center in Charlotte and in other North Carolina cities can verify documents, but you will need to make an appointment in advance. The schedule an appointment at the closest office near you that can verify your information contact 844-545-5640.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy can assist taxpayers that need to renew their ITIN but does not verify or certify identification documents to submit with the W-7.

Learn more about ITIN Renewal.

Check out our other Tax Season Resources:

What to remember this Tax Season

Protect yourself from scams this Tax Season

What to remember this Tax Season

Tax season is upon us, and many people are looking for help filing a tax return.

In doing so, taxpayers should choose their tax preparers wisely because it’s ultimately the taxpayer who is responsible for all the information on their income tax return. This is true no matter who prepares the return.

Here are some tips for folks to remember when selecting a preparer:

Consider Going to a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Site. Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites provide FREE income tax preparation to individuals and families who make less than $56,000 per year. These sites operate between February and mid-April at locations all over North Carolina.  Find a VITA site near you!

Check the Preparer’s Qualifications. People can use the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications. This tool helps taxpayers find a tax return preparer with specific qualifications. The directory is a searchable and sortable listing of preparers.

Check the Preparer’s History. Taxpayers can ask the local Better Business Bureau about the preparer. They should check for disciplinary actions and the license status for credentialed preparers.

Ask about Service Fees. People should avoid preparers who base fees on a percentage of the refund or who boast bigger refunds than their competition.

Ask to e-file. The quickest way for taxpayers to get their refund is to electronically file their federal tax return and choose direct deposit.

Make Sure the Preparer is Available. Taxpayers may want to contact their preparer after this year’s April 15 due date. People should avoid “fly-by-night” preparers.

Provide Records and Receipts. Good preparers will ask to see a taxpayer’s records and receipts. They’ll ask questions to figure things like the total income, tax deductions and credits.

Never Sign a Blank Return. Taxpayers should not use a tax preparer who asks them to sign a blank tax form.

Review Before Signing. Before signing a tax return, the taxpayer should review it. They should ask questions if something is not clear. Taxpayers should feel comfortable with the accuracy of their return before they sign it. Once they sign the return, taxpayers are accepting responsibility for the information on it.

Review details about any refund. Taxpayers should make sure that their refund goes directly to them – not to the preparer’s bank account. The taxpayer should review the routing and bank account number on the completed return.

Ensure the Preparer Signs and Includes their PTIN. All paid tax preparers must have a Preparer Tax Identification Number. By law, paid preparers must sign returns and include their PTIN.

Report Abusive Tax Preparers to the IRS. Most tax return preparers are honest and provide great service to their clients. However, some preparers are dishonest. People can report abusive tax preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS. Use Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer (PDF).

Check out our other Tax Season Resources:

What NOT to do when filing your taxes

Protect yourself from scams this tax season

Protect Yourself This Tax Season

Tax season is also the season for scams targeting taxpayers. Understand the most common scams to protect yourself, your personal information and your finances.

Identity Theft

This occurs when someone uses your personal information such as your Name, Social Security Number (SSN) or other personal identifying information, without your permission. It is often used by scammers to fraudulently file tax returns and claim refunds.

If you file a tax return and then receive a letter from IRS that another tax return was filed using your name, OR if you don’t file a tax return and then receive a letter that a tax return was filed using your name, the false tax filing could be due to identity theft.

Your identity could be stolen, or misused by a former spouse, family member or business partner. 

If you believe that you are at risk of identity theft due to lost, stolen, or misused personal information, contact the North Carolina Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic of Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy.

Phishing

Phishing is usually carried out with unsolicited e-mails or fake websites to steal your personal and financial information. All you must do is click on false links and your personal information could be compromised. 

Keep in mind, the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by e-mail to request personal or financial information. 

Some tax scammers also use snail mail; so be aware, when you receive regular mail that purports to be from the IRS too.  If you are not sure, contact the IRS directly.

Tax Preparer Fraud

Keep in mind, as a taxpayer you are legally responsible for the information you represent on your tax return, even if the tax return is prepared by a third-party professional.

“Free Money” from the IRS

There is NO SUCH THING as “free money” from the IRS. Be skeptical of flyers and advertisements promising you “free money” from the IRS. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Need Help?

Contact the North Carolina Low-Income Tax Clinic.

Check out our other Tax Season Resources:

What to remember this Tax Season

What NOT to do when filing your taxes

Charlotte Tax Preparer Pleads Guilty for Filing False Tax Returns

from WSOC TV:

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A Charlotte tax preparer pleaded guilty in federal court Friday for filing false tax returns for her clients and for herself.

Andrivia Wells entered a guilty plea for three out of 35 counts, including aiding and assisting the filing of false tax returns and filing false tax returns for herself. She did not address a charge related to obstructing criminal investigators from the IRS.

From 2011 through 2019, Wells ran Rush Tax Service out of three locations: Beatties Ford Road, Nevin Road and North Tryon Street. Federal prosecutors say Wells prepared more than 6,000 tax returns and received more than $1.2 million in fees from her clients. Oftentimes, the tax fees were taken from the clients’ tax refunds and clients were unaware of how much they were being charged, which was frequently more than $500.

According to the indictment filed in 2019, Wells filed clients’ tax returns with fabricated items, including wages, filing status, American Opportunity Credits, education credits, Schedule C business income and losses and more. The clients did not know what Wells was doing until they were contacted by the IRS with questions about items on their returns.

Shortly after Wells was notified about the investigation, prosecutors allege she set her Beatties Ford Road office location on fire. It was the very same day her summons response was due. The fire destroyed client files, financial records, and computer hardware.

If you’d like to safeguard your filings this tax season and you make less than $56,000 a year, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy attorney Arthur Bartlett said taxpayers should consider going to a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance site. There are locations across Mecklenburg County, and it’s sponsored and funded by the IRS.

If you do have to pay someone to file your taxes, Bartlett said to remember this important tip.

“Make sure you know you’ve looked at the return as best you can and you’ve asked questions where it doesn’t make sense because ultimately the IRS is going to hold you responsible, very likely, if the one you looked at and signed is the one that’s filed.”

The Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is assisting Wells’ victims. You can reach them at 704-376-1600.

Then & Now: A Decade of Justice

In 2010 …

Charlotte was recovering from the Great Recession, which had destabilized thousands of people through job and home loss that eroded financial security.

As a result, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy saw the overall community need for legal assistance increase by 15%, including an overwhelming need from families facing foreclosure.

The Recession’s effects continued to be felt throughout the decade to shape our community, to define the issues of economic mobility and inequity we fight to address, and to steadily impact the people the Advocacy Center serves today.

As we mark the passing of a critical decade for Charlotte, we’re taking a look back at the work we’ve done to build a more just community for everyone in the Charlotte region.

Then

Our name was Legal Services of Southern Piedmont, a name we had been operating under since 1978.

Number of staff: 19

Now

Today we are Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy! In 2017, we changed our name and celebrated 50 years of service.

Number of staff: 50

Our new name reflects our commitment to providing both individual legal representation and systemic change to advance our mission of pursuing justice for those in need.

Growth to Address Systemic Problems in a Changing World

Since 2010, we’ve launched several projects to meet increased demand for assistance, creatively address the root causes of poverty and support our community’s most vulnerable populations, including:

Access to our legal system

Life altering decisions are made every day in our civil legal system that directly impact a person’s chance at a stable life and opportunity.

Despite the gravity of these decisions, no one is guaranteed legal representation in civil legal cases, leaving only those who can afford an attorney with true access to justice.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and legal service organizations across the country fight to provide equal justice for all in a legal system that is currently inaccessible for those who lack the money and resources to navigate it.

Federal funding for legal service organizations through the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) peaked in 2010. The funding increase was necessary to support legal service organizations assisting an increasing number of people while having lost key funding resources during the Recession. Funding has not increased since, despite the fact 25 percent more people qualify for legal assistance today than in 2007.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy does not receive LSC funding (learn why), but we advocate for sustained and increased funding for our partners that do, such as Legal Aid of North Carolina.

A 2014 impact report from the N.C. Equal Access to Justice Commission showed that 2.2 million North Carolinians qualified for civil legal aid services and 80 percent of civil legal needs of low-income people went unmet.

Despite these unmet needs for civil legal aid, the N.C. General Assembly eliminated $1.7 million in funding for the Access to Civil Justice Act that enabled the state’s legal service organizations, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, Legal Aid of North Carolina and Pisgah Legal Services, to help people navigate their way out of crisis.

Today, the gap between access and justice is still wide:

  • 1 in 3 Mecklenburg County residents is low-income.
  • 71 percent of low-income people experienced at least one civil legal problem in the last year,
  • Only 14 percent received the legal help they needed to address their problem.
  • In Mecklenburg County, there ONE legal aid attorney available to every 11,500 low-income residents between the Advocacy Center and Legal Aid.

Learn about the justice gap and how you can help

Affordable housing and protection from housing displacement

By 2010, the Advocacy Center was assisting families who were fighting foreclosure and trying to put their financial lives back together in the wake of the global financial crisis. When the housing crisis peaked in 2009, more than 12 million homeowners were experiencing negative equity across the U.S.

Today, the Advocacy Center helps families and communities navigate Charlotte’s affordable housing crisis as more people struggle to find and remain in affordable places to live. That assistance includes foreclosure prevention; defense against unfair and deceptive sales and purchases; property tax relief; and impact litigation on behalf of tenants to ensure safe and habitable housing conditions under N.C. law, including a class action lawsuit on behalf of residents of Lake Arbor Apartments.

Welcoming Immigrants into Our Community

Charlotte’s Immigration Court opened in 2008 to serve applicants from North and South Carolina. The Advocacy Center’s Immigrant Justice Program began serving applicants who could not afford legal assistance in the court, which quickly gained a reputation as one of the most hostile in the country.

With the Immigration Working Group, the Advocacy Center to begin the Immigration Assistance Project in 2010 to help unrepresented people in the court, providing consultation, education and referrals to assist them in court proceedings. Since its creation, it has been a vital legal resource to thousands of people that is not available in most immigration courts.

Today Charlotte’s Immigration Court continues to be one of the most hostile courts for applicants seeking immigration relief with judges known for their high denial rates.

By 2014, violence and instability in Central America generated a wave of unaccompanied migrant children to the U.S.-Mexico border seeking asylum, safety and reunification with family already living in the U.S.

The Advocacy Center launched the Safe Child Immigrant Project to ensure these children had an advocate.

Without our intervention, these children would have had not have had legal assistance to make their case for asylum, special immigrant juvenile status or other forms of relief they were entitled to receive.

Due to an overwhelming backlog, the first green cards from many of these cases were finally granted in 2018, allowing these children and their families to remain safely in the U.S. without fear of return to dangerous situations in their home countries.

This victory is a stark comparison to the current reality for thousands of children seeking relief at the U.S. border. They will not see the same outcome under current federal immigration enforcement, even though they have endured the same hardships and have the same valid claims for relief as these new green card recipients.

The Advocacy Center remains a presence in Immigration Court serving as a legal resource for individuals who otherwise would not receive any assistance and an advocate fighting to ensure dignity, fairness and due process for applicants.

Economic mobility

The Advocacy Center fought to maintain public benefits that stabilize families, while also ensuring access to them with increased demand for social support after the Recession, including SNAP benefits (food stamps) and the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Today, the Advocacy Center is still fighting cuts and policies that destabilize families at the federal and state level, while helping families understand what is available under changing laws and policies.

Since 2018, the Advocacy Center has fought changes to the federal Public Charge rule to consider use of public benefits to determine approval for people seeking to immigrate to the U.S. or applying for a green card to become legal permanent residents. Confusion and fear surrounding the rule change has led local families who are eligible to receive public benefits to forego support out of fear. Federal courts halted the rule’s implementation in October 2019, and the Advocacy Center continues to monitor ongoing litigation.

Our Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic is educating N.C. taxpayers on new regulations stemming from federal tax reform passed in 2018, while continuing to help taxpayers protect themselves from scams and fraud.

In conjunction with a new state law changed the waiting period for expunging non-violent misdemeanor and felony criminal convictions in 2017, the Advocacy Center began helping Mecklenburg County residents apply for removal of non-violent, eligible offenses from their criminal records. This project sought to remove barriers to economic mobility that come with having a criminal record. In FY19, we assisted 217 people to expunge criminal records in N.C. and advocated for passage of expanded eligibility for expungements in the N.C. General Assembly.

In 2016, the Advocacy Center partnered with Central Piedmont Community College’s Single Stop program to provide legal assistance that helps students overcome barriers to their education and pursue economic opportunity. In the first two years, the partnership provided $72,855 in legal assistance while obtaining or preserving $103,462 in public benefits for students and their families.

Access to quality, affordable health care

The Advocacy Center has been litigating to ensure families have the health care they are entitled to receive under the law through major cases, including:

  • Pashby v. Cansler, later Pettigrew v. Brajer: The lawsuit, initially named Pashby v. Cansler, was filed in 2011 by the Advocacy Center, Disability Rights N.C. and the National Health Law Program, alleging that the state violated federal Medicaid law and the Americans with Disabilities Act by determining eligibility for personal care services under more restrictive criteria for people living at home than for those who live in institutional settings known as adult care homes. A settlement was reached in 2016, allowing vulnerable citizens who need health services to safely remain in their homes and have their services restored.
  • Pachas v. NCDHHS: The Advocacy Center brought the case on behalf of a terminally ill man, who had been the primary provider for his wife, two young daughters, and elderly in-laws. Pachas was trying to support his family on Social Security disability benefits before eventually qualifying for Medicaid benefits that covered his medical treatment for a stroke and a brain tumor. Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services determined Pachas’ income was above the federal poverty level based on the level of an individual, not for a family, and required him to pay a large deductible on his Medicaid benefits. In 2018, attorneys argued before the N.C. Court of Appeals that the state was violating federal Medicaid law in applying its definition of family size to determine eligibility for benefits. The N.C. Supreme Court heard arguments on the case in 2018 and unanimously ruled in favor of the Center to vacate the Court of Appeals ruling. The case is now with the Court of Appeals for a ruling on the merits of the case.
  • Hawkins v. Cohen: The Advocacy Center and the National Health Law Program filed a lawsuit in federal court in 2017 to stop illegal terminations of Medicaid benefits in North Carolina that resulted in a preliminary injunction and a certified class action.  The improper actions included due process violations, failure to reasonably accommodate the disabled, and creating barriers to access for recipients with limited English proficiency. The class action is ongoing. As a result, the state changed its computer system earlier this year to stop Medicaid coverage from automatically terminating when a county worker does not timely complete a required eligibility review. Under this programming change, Medicaid coverage for more than 124,000 cases was extended in the past two months that would otherwise have been terminated without notice.

With the first open enrollment season for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Advocacy Center launched the Health Insurance Navigator project to help consumers understand their options and get the health care they needed under the new law.

Since 2013, we’ve helped thousands of people understand their options and get health coverage, while reducing the state’s uninsured rate. The navigator project has been recognized as a national model and received a visit from Sylvia Burwell, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, in 2015.

At the end of 2019, our health insurance navigators completed their seventh open enrollment season, helping residents in Cabarrus, Mecklenburg and Union counties understand their coverage options in a changing healthcare landscape to select health plan that meet their individual needs and budget.

The ACA included opportunity for states to expand their Medicaid programs and close the coverage gap for low-income people to insure all Americans. The Advocacy Center began advocating for expansion of the state’s Medicaid program in the N.C. General Assembly, which has failed to act. Expansion would insure an estimated 500,000 NC residents who make too little to afford private health coverage but too much to receive financial assistance paying for coverage. Expansion also would have lowered overall health costs for residents and spurred an estimated $2.9 billion in business growth by 2020.

Today we are still urging the N.C. General Assembly to expand Medicaid so that more residents have access to health care. Residents like Allan.

The N.C. General Assembly approved changes to the state’s Medicaid program in 2015 that privatized the administration of the program. The Advocacy Center has been working with providers and beneficiaries to make sure they understand what the change means and how to continue receiving health care. The Advocacy Center is also monitoring the change to ensure access under the law. The implementation of the new program was supposed to take place in fall 2019, but it has been delayed due to the legislature’s inability to pass a budget.

Protection from exploitation

To improve quality of life and ensure independence, the Advocacy Center has worked to empower seniors through education, legal representation and specific services that enable them to remain self-sufficient, their property unencumbered and their finances protected through Legal Services for the Elderly program and other projects.

The Advocacy Center’s Consumer Protection program has continually worked to protect low-income people from scams and bad actors taking advantage of vulnerable groups who lack access to resources to understand their rights as consumers.

Immigrants have historically been targets for exploitation in our country. The current administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy toward immigrants who are undocumented has exacerbated their vulnerability and stoked fear in families, regardless of immigration status.

For 12 years, Mecklenburg County’s 287(g) program facilitated hundreds of deportations by assisting federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in implementing federal immigration enforcement at the local level. The voluntary program directed police to target, arrest and hold residents living in our community without a legal immigration status.

This practice tore families apart, made immigrants vulnerable targets and eroded trust of law enforcement, all while diverting local taxpayer funds away from public safety to enforce federal immigration policy, which is outside the jurisdiction of local law enforcement agencies. The Advocacy Center has long believed this policy has harmed our community by undermining public safety, depriving individuals due process, wasting county resources, and exposing tax payers to potential legal settlements.

Mecklenburg County Sheriff Gary McFadden ended the 287(g) program in late 2018 after winning election on the issue. In 2019, Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the N.C. General Assembly’s mandate that local sheriffs cooperate with ICE and honor detainer requests. The Advocacy Center continues to monitor local and state policies that negatively impact immigrants in our community.

In 2018, the Advocacy Center fought against ICE presence in our courts after officials arrested a woman and her 16-year-old son at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse, leaving her 2-year-old child behind in the court’s day care center as they took her into custody and placed her in deportation proceedings. This woman, Maria, and her son are survivors of domestic violence who were appearing for a hearing in their case.

The arrest became part of a national dialogue on how ICE activity in courthouses negatively impacts public safety and the ability for crime victims, especially victims of domestic violence, to seek justice.

The Charlotte Immigration Court later terminated her deportation case with the support of ICE, allowing Maria and her family to remain in the U.S. as they pursued a U-Visa, which provides protected status to victims of crime. The victory came after months of negotiation with ICE through the partnership of Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, Comunidad Colectiva and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild.

In response to increased ICE activity since 2017, the Advocacy Center has partnered with community groups, including the Action NC, Comunidad Colectiva, El Puente Hispano and the Latin American Coalition to help individuals understand their civil rights and provide emergency planning for families in the event of family separation through arrest and deportation.

A decade of justice

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy has covered a lot of ground over the  last 10 years, but the gap between access and justice remains wide.

In the decade ahead, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy remains committed to closing that gap by building a more just community where all are treated fairly and have access to legal representation to meet their basic needs and thrive.

In 2020 and beyond…

We will always fight to ensure

  • Access to our legal system
  • Affordable housing and protection from housing displacement
  • All feel welcome in our community
  • Economic mobility
  • Access to quality, affordable health care
  • Protection from exploitation

While the means to accomplishing our mission will change with the needs of our community, our resolve to pursue justice for those in need remains constant. Because we believe …

justice lives here.

Thoughts on Tax Advocate Nina Olson

Senior attorney Soreé Finley recently reflected on her first interaction with National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson, who retires today after a long career of fighting for fair tax policies for all Americans. This blog post originally appeared in Procedurally Taxing.

I can’t remember the exact year of my first Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) conference. I do however remember the elevator ride to the Hilton’s meeting rooms: There are several attendees on the elevator, all hoping to be seated by 8:30 a.m. I am a new attorney and I want to impress my LITC director with my timeliness, but I’m struggling with the early start time.

I walk into this big meeting room, and there’s a nervous and excited energy among the attendants. I’m nervous too, of course—it’s my first legal conference, and I’m in a room full of attorneys. As I look for my table, I keep hearing the word “N.I.N.A.”, and figure it’s one more IRS acronym I’ll have to learn.

I sit at my table as my watch displays “8:30.” Someone approaches the podium and the room goes silent. It’s Nina—not N.I.N.A.—Olson, the National Taxpayer Advocate. For the first time, but not the last, I am blown away by her profound and contagious commitment to taxpayer advocacy.

Years after my first introduction to Ms. Olson, I am still inspired by her courage and willingness to ensure taxpayers and tax practitioners have a positive and consistent experience when interfacing with the IRS. There are millions of taxpayers who may never know Nina Olson’s name, but her legacy and impact on taxpayer advocacy will continue long after she retires.