We’re here for you year-round with a tax help hotline and a tax legal clinic.

Client FAQs

Frequently asked questions about CEP’s client services and tax return preparation are listed below.  With other questions, please contact us via email info@economicprogress.org or at (312) 252-0280 (Option 1 for Spanish, Option 2 for English).


1.      Where is my Federal or State refund?

You can track your federal refund by going to the IRS.gov website and completing the form for ‘Get Refund Status.’  This refund status page  will ask identification questions and provide the status of your refund. For Illinois returns, go to the Illinois Department of Revenue page for individuals and click on the My Refund link near the top of the Featured Topics section.

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2.      What should I do if my federal tax return has a mistake?

If you had the return prepared by a paid preparer, call the preparer to discuss how to make corrections. If a Center for Economic Progress tax site prepared your return, call us at (312) 252-0280 (Option 1 for Spanish, Option 2 for English).

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3.      What should I do if my return has been rejected?

Between January and April, go to the location where you got your return prepared. They will be able to determine why it was rejected and correct the problem. If your site closes prior to April 15 or if it is after April 15th, and we prepared your return, call us at (312) 252-0280 (Option 1 for Spanish, Option 2 for English).

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4.      I don’t understand the notice or letter I received about my taxes. What should I do?

If you received a notice from IRS, we may be able to help. Call us at (312) 252-0280 (Option 3 for Tax Clinic).

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5.      Who can I claim on my return?

Generally, you can claim your children who lived with you if they’re under age 24 and full time students. You may be able to claim your children who are over 24 and other relatives who lived with you, if you provided most of their support. Review Publication 501 on Exemptions, Standard Deduction, and Filing Status for specific details at http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p501.pdf. Check with your tax advisor or go to irs.gov website for additional information.

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6.      Do I need to file a tax return if I received social security, disability, pension or unemployment benefits?

Social Security Benefits

Social security benefits include monthly retirement, survivor, and disability benefits. Generally, if social security benefits were your only income for the year, your benefits are not taxable and you probably do not need to file a federal income tax return. However, the social security benefits may be taxable if you received additional income from other sources, including interest and dividends, self-employment and other income. To determine whether or not your benefits are taxable  go to this link: http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=179091,00.html

Note that supplemental security income (SSI) payments are not taxable.

Pension or Annuity Payments

If you receive retirement benefits in the form of pension or annuity payments, the amounts you receive may be fully taxable, or partially taxable. Check with your tax advisor or go to irs.gov website for additional information.

Unemployment Benefits

Normally, unemployment benefits are taxable. If you received unemployment compensation during the year, you should receive Form 1099-G (PDF) showing the amount you were paid. Any unemployment compensation received during the year generally must be included in your income.

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7.      How can I obtain a copy of my tax returns?

Go to your tax preparer and request a copy. If a Center for Economic Progress tax site prepared your return, call us at (312) 252-0280 (Option 1 for Spanish or Option 2 for English). IRS also provides copies for a fee, or you can obtain a free return transcript for the last three years by going to the IRS website.

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8.      How can I make changes to a tax return that has already been filed?

Take a copy of your original return and any documents needed to make changes, such as additional income documents, to the person who prepared your tax return. Your preparer should be able to file an amended tax return for you. If a Center for Economic Progress tax site prepared your return, call us at (312) 252-0280 (Option 1 for Spanish or Option 2 for English).

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9.      What can I do if I am having problems with any of the following: IRS tax return examination audit, tax court case, or a levy or other collection issue?

If  the IRS believes there’s a mistake on your tax return they may conduct an audit of the return. The taxpayer is then asked to prove he or she qualified for the deductions and credits he claimed. If the IRS determines someone owes taxes, it can garnish wages or social security payments, take money out of the person’s bank account or file a lien – all actions that make it difficult to maintain good credit.

Call us at (312) 252-0280 (Option 3 for Tax Clinic) if you received an examination notice, notice of intent to levy, notice of intent to file a lien, or any other notice from the IRS that you have a hard time understanding. CEP can help you understand the notices and the documents you need to provide as proof of deductions or credits claimed on your tax return.

If you don’t believe you owe the IRS money, CEP can investigate and make a claim on your behalf. In some cases, we can stop collection actions by reducing the amount owed or making affordable payment arrangements. You can also contact us if you need to file a Tax Court petition or need full Tax Court representation.

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10.  Do I qualify for the adoption tax credit?

If you adopted a child during the period 2008 - 2016, you may qualify for the adoption tax credit. The Center for Economic Progress tax sites do not prepare tax returns that claim the adoption tax credit.  Gather your tax records, as well as documentation for any adoption expenses that you paid, and bring them to your tax preparer. You will also need  a copy of the adoption decree, placement agreement, and DCFS special needs determination, if applicable.

Call us at (312) 252-0280 (Option 3 for Tax Clinic)if the IRS disputes your right to claim the adoption tax credit. We can help you understand the notice and review your documents necessary to prove your right to the credit.

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 11.  Who qualifies for Center for Economic Progress services?

CEP prepares tax returns in Illinois for free for individuals earning less than $30,000 or families earning less than $55,000. We do not prepare business returns for corporations or partnerships. We prepare basic tax returns for the self employed. Our tax preparation sites open in late January thru April. Click on this link, enter your zip code in the Find a Tax Site box for more information about hours and locations. CEP also offers Money Action Days throughout the remainder of the year, assisting with tax preparation for families who meet our income and complexity guidelines.

Our Tax Clinic also helps low income individuals who have a controversy with the IRS and would like to dispute their liability or negotiate affordable payment arrangements. You can qualify for a Tax Clinic representation if your current family income is less than the following thresholds:

Family Size Income No More Than
1 $30,150
2 $40,600
3 $51,050
4 $61,500
5 $71,950
6 $82,400

Add $10,400 for each additional family member over 6

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12. I missed the April 15 deadline, what are my options and what are the penalties for missing the deadline?

If you don't think you'll make the April 15th deadline, at the very least file an Extension (Form 4868), which will give you until October 15th to file without a late filing penalty.  If you expect to have a balance due, pay at least 90% of the balance due with the extension to avoid failure to pay on time penalties.   In either case, mail Form 4868 early enough so that is postmarked no later than April 15.

CEP offers Money Action Days throughout the remainder of the year, assisting with tax preparation for families who meet our income and complexity guidelines. Paid preparers and self-preparation websites will remain available to assist late filers as well.

Regarding penalties, if you are due a refund, there are no penalties for missing the deadline.  If you have a balance due, both entities could charge not only a penalty for filing the return late (5% of the balance due per month the return is late), but an additional penalty (1/2 to 1% of the balance due per month late) for failing to pay the balance due on time.  In addition, interest will start accruing on the balance that is due, increasing the amount of money owed.  The Illinois Department of Revenue charges similar penalties and fees.

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13. I'm self-employed. Do I need to make quarterly payments or can I just wait until next year to file?

The general rule for all taxpayers is that withholding and/or quarterly payments should equal either, a., 90% of the tax expected to be due at the end of the year, or b., 100% of the previous year's tax. If your most recent tax return showed that you owed $0.00 in federal income tax, then you do not have to make any quarterly payments

If you think you might need to make quarterly payments, the IRS and Illinois Department of Revenue created a worksheet to answer this question.  You can use Form 1040-ES and Form IL-1040-ES to see if estimated payments are required.

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14. I didn't sign up for Obamacare but have heard that I may have to pay a penalty. What are my options?

If you qualify for Medicaid, you can sign up at any time.  There may be a penalty when you file your 2016 income tax return next year of $625 per person (347.50 per child) or 2.5% of your yearly household income, whichever is higher.  There are exceptions to the penalty, and you may be eligible to enroll during a special open enrollment period depending on your circumstances.  To find help in your area, go to www.getcoveredillinois.gov.

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15. In addition to the income requirements, is there anything else that could prevent me from receiving CEP’s services?

CEP does not prepare tax returns for individuals/families who have any of these situations:

  • Want to claim the adoption tax credit.
  • Received income from rental property.
  • Bought, sold, or had a foreclosure on a home.
  • If you want to take a deduction for business use of your home.

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16. I rent out a room. Can I file my taxes at CEP?

Regretfully, we cannot prepare tax returns that involve rental income. We are unable to
process your return at this time.

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17. What if I bought, sold, or foreclosed on a property?

Regretfully, we do not prepare tax returns for these cases.

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