Affordable Care Act could impact your tax refund

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- April 15 may seem far off, but tax experts say it's time to get started on your taxes.

Constance Jacobs, an enrolled agent for H&R Block, has been doing people's taxes for more than a decade. Last year alone, she said she filed tax returns for 250 people.

This year, she worries many people may be taken off guard by how the Affordable Care Act can impact taxes.

"I'm afraid a lot of people don't realize what the impact is this year," she said. "A lot of people think it's just a matter of, if they're not insured, they'll have a penalty of $95. And they just thought last year, 'OK that's fine with me.' But it can be a lot more; it can be one percent of your income."

Jacobs said, depending on your situation, the Affordable Care Act could mean you get more money back in your refund, or it could mean you get less. She advised beginning on your taxes now, so you will have more time to prepare for the ACA's impact.

Mark Hanson, an IRS spokesperson, also recommends beginning on your taxes now. He said many people enlist the assistance of a tax professional and he cautioned that taxpayers put a lot of consideration into who they choose.

"Taxpayers need to remember that filing a federal income tax return is one of the most important, if not the very most important financial transaction they may enter into in any given year," he said. "You have to pick somebody you can trust."

Hanson recommended visiting the IRS website for suggestions on how to select a tax preparer.

"One of the first things that people should do is go to the IRS website and keyword search 'tips for choosing a tax professional,'" he said. "We suggest things like checking with consumer protection organizations, checking with family and friends or other references for tax preparers. Maybe doing a web search."

Hanson emphasized that, if a tax preparer makes an error on your tax return, it may likely be you who is held accountable legally.

"If the IRS questions information on a return that you submit, they question you the taxpayer first, not necessarily the tax preparer," he said. "Once you sign that return, you are claiming responsibility for the information on it. So again, choose wisely and make sure you can trust that individual."

Hanson also warned of increased scams around tax filing season.

"There are still reports around the country of taxpayers receiving calls from individuals claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service," he said. "They're demanding payment of money. Remember, that's not how the IRS is going to collect unpaid taxes. If you get one of these threatening phone calls, it is a scam artist. Do not fall into the trap by providing them with any sensitive financial information."

For help on how to file your taxes yourself, or how to select a tax preparer, visit the IRS website - IRS.gov.