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Originally published: 2013-02-05 15:50:45
Last modified: 2013-02-05 15:50:45

Our View: Tax assessment

An already taxing situation could be exacerbated for millions of uninsured and low-income Americans this year, including many in Watauga County.

Because guidelines are based on gross income, filing status and age, not everyone has to file a federal tax return, and not everyone does so. For example, a person younger than age 65 who earned less than $9,750 in 2012 is exempt from the requirement. 

This year, not filing could be a costly mistake.

Although not everyone must file a federal tax return, everyone, except in very limited circumstances, will have to have minimum essential health-care coverage by Jan. 1, 2014. As a result of the Affordable Care Act, tax penalties will result for those who fail to get coverage.

While new tax credits will help low- and moderate-income individuals and families afford the required health insurance premiums, the primary method for determining eligibility will be individual tax returns. 

That's why it's important to file a tax return this year, even if you fall below the gross income guidelines or otherwise don't have to legally submit a return.

It's also important for another reason: The only way to get a refund is by filing a return. And because many Americans who earned less than $51,000 in 2012 are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit, that refund could be significant. 

The average EITC claim in 2011 was about $2,200, but in that year, about 20 percent of eligible Americans failed to get a refund because they did not file a return.

Many people don't file because of the complexity of the forms, but for many people in Watauga County there is free help available to complete and file a tax return. 

Depending on your income and age, free tax preparation assistance is available at the Watauga County Public Library's main branch, Harrill Senior Center, Western Watauga Community Center, Raley Hall at Appalachian State University and State Employees Credit Union. 

Call the individual centers for guidelines -- come next January, you'll be glad you did.