New regular column, “Ask an Expert”

Here at Prepare + Prosper (P+P), we’re passionate about taxes and finances. We work year-round to help 12,000+ people file taxes for free, claim their maximum refund, and answer any questions people may have along the way. We’re preparing taxes at nine  sites across the Twin Cities metro area from now until April 15, and at our main office tax site through October. With this new, regular column “Ask an Expert,” we will answer common questions we hear asked. If you have a question, please leave a comment – we would love to answer it in a future article. Today we start with a question we hear frequently: Who has to file taxes?

Who has to file?

Not everyone has to file their taxes. If you made below a certain amount over the course of the year, you are not required to file (see the table below for filing requirements for most people). However, we recommend some people file taxes even when it isn’t required. If you qualify for tax credits you should file! Tax credits can either reduce tax liability (a non-refundable credit) or put money back in your pockets (a refundable credit).

What types of credits are there?

Many tax credits are designed to benefit households with low- to moderate-incomes. At all P+P tax clinics, staff and volunteers are trained to make sure you claim the tax credits you have earned when filing your taxes.

Credits that benefit low- to moderate-income households whether or not they have children
  • Earned Income Tax Credit: Many people earn this effective tax credit, potentially returning as much as $6,557 to households who meet requirements. Eligibility depends on your income and number of people in your household (if you have no children you may still be eligible). You can use the IRS’s EITC Assistant to find out if you’re eligible.
  • Working Family Credit: This is Minnesota’s version of the Earned Income Tax Credit. Last year, Minnesota expanded the Working Family Credit (in part thanks to advocacy efforts lead by the Minnesota Budget Project and P+P) so that more people could qualify, specifically aiming to include more young people who do not have children.
Credits benefit households with children or other dependents:
  • Child Tax Credit and Additional Child Tax Credit: If you have one or more qualifying children, you may qualify for the nonrefundable Child Tax Credit, which would reduce your tax liability (if you have it). You may also be able to claim the Additional Child Tax Credit, which is refundable and can be as high as $1,400 per child.
  • Child and Dependent Care Credit: This is both a federal and state credit for families that pay someone to help care for a child or adult dependent. This credit specifically aims to offset the cost of caring for dependents while you work or look for work.
  • Minnesota K-12 Education Credit: Be sure to save your receipts from purchases you make for your child’s education. School supplies, instrument rental, transportation fees, after-school educational programs, and computer hardware can add up fast. Qualified families can claim a maximum of $1,000 through this credit.
Credits benefit households that are making an investment in their future, either through education or retirement
  • American Opportunity Credit and Lifetime Learning Credit: Both of these credits aim to make post-secondary education more affordable, each with slightly different limitations regarding who qualifies.
  • Retirement Savings Credit: Saving for retirement is hard work, and the government wants to recognize that effort through this credit. Depending on your income and the amount you contributed to your retirement, you can claim up to $1,000 through this non-refundable credit.
Credits that benefit homeowners and renters
  • Minnesota Homestead Credit Refund and Renter’s Property Tax Refund: Through this tax credit, Minnesota shows that it values its residents, whether you’re a homeowner or a renter. The deadline to claim these 2019 credits isn’t until August 15, 2021. P+P’s main office is open outside of the standard tax season, too, so we would be glad to help you file your M1PR to claim these credits.
What is the deadline to file my taxes?

The deadline to file income taxes is April 15. However, if you are due for a refund, you can file as late without any penalties. You can claim your 2019 income tax refund until April 15, 2023.

If you do owe when you file, do your best to file by April 15, 2020. If you file late when you owe taxes, late penalties and interest will be added to the amount you owe. If you aren’t sure, it’s certainly best to file by April 15! If you can’t finish your return by the deadline, fill out an extension form and pay the amount you think you’ll owe with the extension.

What do I need to file my taxes?

To file your taxes correctly, you’ll need to bring in a fair amount of paperwork. Rather than list it all here, please see the thorough breakdown we have on our website: list of what to bring.

If you don’t have a Social Security Number, don’t worry; we’re here for you. P+P is a certified acceptance agent, and can help you apply for or renew an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) for free. Find out on our website.

Where can I get my taxes done for free?

If you meet our income guidelines, P+P can help you at any of our nine tax season locations (up until April 15) and year-round at our main office. If you prefer to file online, the Minnesota Department of Revenue has Free File options listed on their website.

Still have more questions? Please leave us a comment or send us an email. We would be glad to address your question in a future article of “Ask An Expert.”

Do you have a more specific question? Please be safe and don’t leave your contact information or Social Security number in the comments. Call our tax team if you have questions about a return you’ve already filed with P+P.