These MONEY heroes help retirees and members of the armed forces with their tax returns, and assist people caught up in legal problems with the IRS.
Caroline Ciraolo, 44, tax litigator who represents clients on a pro bono basis<strong>
Drawn to cases offending her sense of fairness, Ciraolo volunteers about 200 hours a year defending individuals and businesses in IRS disputes.
Clients have ranged from teachers misled about tax law to wives unfairly dunned for taxes on their husbands’ income. (She saved the wives millions.)
The Baltimore attorney, who launched her state bar’s U.S. Tax Court pro bono program in 2008, got colleagues last year to train personnel at nearby Fort Meade to prepare returns for soldiers — making her firm a pioneer in a new national program.
“People you help pro bono are very grateful clients. When you get a good result, there are tears.”
Donald Gore, 76, volunteer tax preparer AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program
Upon retiring as an attorney for Lockheed in 1995, Gore soon found a way to share his interest and expertise in taxation.
As part of a free AARP Foundation program funded by the IRS, he spends December through April preparing about 85 tax returns — mostly for the elderly — taking particular delight in unearthing prior-year refunds due new clients.
A trailblazer in the program’s shift from pencil and paper to computers, he’s also the technical coordinator for six AARP tax-prep sites in California’s San Luis Obispo County.
“The 1040’s instructions are more intimidating than the form itself. If you go down line by line, it’s pretty simple.”
Running out of time to make the April 15 deadline? Here’s your game plan for getting the job done:
Sneak in a tax cut. You still have time to snag a 2012 deduction: Contribute to a traditional IRA or health savings account. Even if your workplace has a 401(k) plan, you can get a partial IRA deduction with a modified adjusted gross income of $112,000 ($68,000 for singles). Mail checks by April 15 or do a same-day transfer online.
Skip the post office. Don’t bet on mailing your return at the 11th hour; with 80% of people e-filing in 2012, the Postal Service has fewer locations open late on the 15th. FedEx’s evening hours will be normal, and some UPS sites will delay closing. Search for “private delivery services” on irs.gov to get the IRS street address you’ll need.
Pay now. File later. To get an automatic six months’ grace period, send form 4868 via mail or at freefile.irs.gov. You’ll still owe taxes on the 15th, though. Estimate your bill by starting with last year’s return and adjusting for changes, says St. Louis CPA Ken Rubin. Check your state tax agency’s website to see if you have to file separately for a state extension. — Lauren Gensler