(March 10, 2010) – With the tax filing season in full swing, things can become quite hectic for the 300,000 taxpayers expected to complete a return this year with the District Office of Tax and Revenue (OTR).

And, rushing to get the job done in anticipation of a timely refund can result in a variety of unnecessary and costly mistakes, officials said. Among them: failure to sign forms, not double checking math computations, entering incomplete or incorrect Social Security numbers and forgetting to attach W-2 statements that show District withholdings, according to a spokeswoman for the District’s Office of Tax and Revenue.

“We are encouraging taxpayers to file their return electronically, and that if they’re getting a refund to have it deposited directly into their account,—or they can go online and pay if they owe anything,” said OTR spokeswoman Natalie Wilson. “It’s a faster and more efficient. If they’re due a refund they’ll get it in a few days as opposed to weeks if they file a paper return.”

But Wilson is also cautioning taxpayers to be aware of unscrupulous tax preparers.

“There are tax preparers that claim they can get you a really large refund and that’s not necessarily true,” said Wilson. “Once you sign, you are saying that the information on your return is true and correct, so be careful as you select a tax preparer.”

The District is on standby to help filers as well. There is no cost to taxpayers, however, they must have already completed filing for their federal return.

Wilson said that individuals who opt to come to her office for assistance should bring a copy of their federal return.

OTR is also encouraging taxpayers to take advantage of the Earned Income Tax Credit.

“In the District, if they qualify for EIC, they can get up to 40 percent of the credit and that could be worth up to $2,200, depending on your filing status and your family size,” Wilson said.

The office announced recently that it has extended the 2010 electronic W-2 filing deadline to March 15. Otherwise, the due date for all returns is April 15.

Among individuals required to file are those who were lived in the District last year and were required to file a federal tax return and people who lived in the city 183 days or more during the taxable year, even if their permanent residence was outside the District.

Forms can be downloaded or obtained at several locations around the city, including the OTR building on North Capitol Street.

Additionally, people who anticipate they will need more time to file their return can request an extension by using of time Form FR-127. That request must be submitted on or before April 15.

Taxpayers also have three years from the due date of the return to file for a refund.

H& R Block, one of several tax filing businesses in the District, serves about 20,000 clients each season.

Rick Carter, a local district manager, said tax time is usually laden with stress as people scurry about gathering information needed to complete their filings.

“We’re here every year, obviously, and this year is not much different than any other time,” Carter said. “Of course, the recession and snow storms certainly set everybody back, causing many people to get shut in their houses for a week so. But they’re pretty much caught up now.”

Carter added that when it comes to tax deductions, his businesses are seeing many responses because of the $8,000 first-time homebuyer credits.

“D.C.’s always had it, but we’ve seen a lot more people take advantage of that,” he said.

Still, it’s not unusual for people in the District to confuse filing of their individual income withholdings with payment of their property taxes, said David Umansky, spokesperson for the District of Columbia Office of the Chief Financial Officer.

“OTR is part of the Chief Financial Officer’s Office, and people often call this office instead thinking they can come here to file their income taxes,” Umansky said.” But that’s not the case and we try to get them to the right people or right help desk.”

He added that the time frame for paying property taxes is on the bill that comes in the mail. As opposed to income taxes, “It tells you that you owe a certain amount and that you have to pay by a certain date,” Umansky said.