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Tax season is hard, for tax preparers and those who might have waited a bit too long to file alike.

This year, the filing deadline is April 17. As the day rapidly approaches, interested agencies are working to ensure a smooth process.

There are new additions to both the federal and Maryland state guidelines for filing income taxes this year. The most notable change is the due date from April 15 to 17 because April 15 is a Sunday and the observance of the Emancipation Day holiday in Washington, D.C., on April 16.

In Maryland, this year will be the last that tax booklets are mailed to the public. The booklets, which also are distributed at libraries and post offices, will instead be available at libraries and post offices that request CD-ROMs with the material.

A new form, New Dependent Form 502B for Form 502, also was introduced for those claiming more than two dependents.

At the federal level, important changes for taxpayers include, among others, an increase in the amount one can deduct for each exemption claimed. Capital gains and losses also are to be reported on the new Form 8949.

Despite these changes, Jeff Dennison, a tax preparer for Waldorf-based Professional Tax Service & Notary, said that the changes have “not affected anyone in a major way,” and that the workload this tax season has been manageable.

Dennison said the company has gained several new clients, due to the deaths and relocations of others in the same line of work.

Despite the increase in clientele, Dennison said he feels that many probably file their taxes on their own given the state of the economy, or file at the last minute for similar reasons.

“Most [last-minute filers] know they’re going to owe money, or anticipate problems and so they procrastinate,” Dennison said. “It’s been more than usual given how the economy is. People end up doing things they normally wouldn’t have to if they weren’t suffering from financial hardships.”

Corae Young, support services director for LifeStyles of Maryland and the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program coordinator, has seen many such families come to the program, which provides free assistance in filing taxes in partnership with the AARP branch the national retired people’s nonprofit at the Charles County Department of Community Services.

Coordinating the program is “certainly a challenge,” Young said. “We have about 10 to 12 people who express an interest in volunteering, but there are a lot of steps to go through to become certified, and I think they get nervous about the process.”

Currently, the VITA program at LifeStyles employs three volunteers who are trained at the intermediate level. Young feels that among the biggest challenges faced is simply getting the word out about the program.

“We’ve tried to get the word out early,” Young said. “This is a way to let people who are income eligible know they don’t have to spend money on tax preparation.”

Young said the target range for VITA eligibility is those earning $50,000 or less a year, although exceptions can be made.

As of Wednesday evening, the VITA program at Lifestyles had served 127 households and netted $278,564 in federal and state refunds, $101,038 of which was from income credit refunds. The average refund amount per household was $2,193.42.

Free assistance for filing state income taxes also is available through the state.

“If you bring in your W-2s, 1099s and completed federal return, we’ll prepare and file your state return for free,” Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) said in a news release from the comptroller’s office.

The service is offered at local branches of the comptroller’s office.

On April 17, the post office at St. Charles Towne Center also will accept mail up until 6 p.m. for a postmark of the same day.

lrenner@somdnews.com

Tax help is available

-Twelve branch offices of the Maryland Comptroller’s Office will be open 9 a.m.-1 p.m. April 14 to provide free income tax return assistance and preparation, including at 1036 St. Nicholas Drive, Suite 202, Waldorf. Call 301-645-2226 or 301-843-0977.

-A complete list of branch offices and phone numbers can be found at http://bit.ly/gfeOa8.

-Besides Saturday’s special hours, free tax assistance is available at all of the agency’s offices 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday. Telephone assistance is available 8 a.m.-7 p.m. at 800-638-2937 or 410-260-7980 Monday-Friday.

-Additional hours will be offered from 8 a.m.-7 p.m. on the tax-filing deadline, April 17, at all agency locations where comptroller employees will be available for last-minute assistance.

-Taxpayers can download state tax forms and find information at www.marylandtaxes.com.

- For those filing late, the St. Charles Towne Center post office will accept mail up until 6 p.m. April 17 for a postmark of the same date. The second closest location with extended hours is the National Capitol post office, located at 2 Massachussetts Ave., Washington, D.C. The 900 E. Fayette St. branch of the post office in Baltimore will be open until 9 p.m., and will pick up mail until midnight April 17.