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ASG Tax Office ready for new filing season

fili@samoanews.com

Christmas and New Year celebrations are done — it’s now that time of the year called TAX SEASON.

The Tax Office is prepping for the new tax filing season, and Tax Office manager Melvin Joseph says staff is ready, and tax payers can start filing their taxes anytime — as soon as they have their W-2 forms from their employers along with other important data.

What's unclear — and what may become a big complaint from taxpayers — is whether the government will have money in their reserve account to pay in a timely manner the local tax refunds, which are expected to be issued together in one check along with the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC), for those who qualify.

The ACTC is funded by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, who wire transfer the money to ASG once the required paper work is submitted to the federal government. ASG has made it clear that their priority is the payroll and this has been emphasized many times by Treasurer Magalei Logovi’i in Fono hearings last year.

Not included in this year’s refund is a separate federal credit, the Making Work Pay Credit (MWPC), because it’s all done and over with, according to Joseph, who noted that the remaining balance of the MWPC was paid out last year.

“The Tax Office will accept tax filing any time after Jan. 1 of the [new] year and tax payers need to be sure that they have all the information before they file, to ensure there are no delays in processing the tax return,” said Joseph.

For example, make sure the information on the tax return is accurate, have your social security number right and bring it with you when filing. Have your W-2 form ready — and if you have a part time job,make sure all W-2 forms are included for filing. In other words, if you have more than one job, you must file all the W-2s at one time, not on separate occasions.

“It’s very important that a tax filer has all the data before filing,” stressed Joseph, who had not received confirmation as of yesterday morning from the Treasurer’s Office, as to when the W-2 forms for ASG employees will be released.

Also unclear is the release date for W-2 forms of the nearly 2,000 StarKist Samoa cannery workers, as once theirs are released that will keep the Tax Office very busy. Employers are required by law to release the W-2 by Jan. 31.

Joseph says tax forms for the 2011 filing are already printed with the only revision on the form being the 2% additional wage tax that went into effect last March and expired Dec. 31, 2011.

Joseph also shared some good news for employees. The federal government has extended for two months the federal payroll tax cut. This is the 2% reduction in the FICA — Federal Insurance Contribution Act — withholding.

The federal payroll tax cut, which was due to expire Dec. 31, 2011, will be taken up again by Congress when they convene this month to see if it can be extended for a longer period of time.

“With the expiration of our local 2% [additional] wage tax and the continuation for the next two months of the FICA payroll tax cut, this will provide a little bit more money for people to take home in their pay checks,” said Joseph.

At the start of the new year, Joseph issued another reminder to all local tax payers: “You cannot file in the United States to claim other federal tax refunds”. He noted that the U.S. Internal Revenue Service is again keeping a close watch on any tax returns filed with W-2 forms out of American Samoa.

The IRS launched an investigation more than three years ago into local residents who filed in the U.S. to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) — a credit for which residents of American Samoa and other U.S. territories do not qualify.

It remains to be seen if any of the local tax payers caught by the federal government claiming the EITC will be prosecuted. They will — for sure — be required to pay back the money they received, according to federal officials.



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