Tax Help

  • What do I need to bring with me to the tax site?

    • All tax documents, including W-2s and 1099s, for the year involved
    • Social Security cards or Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs) for all family members
    • Valid photo ID for the person filing and, if applicable, for the spouse
    • Copy of your previous year’s tax return, if available
    • Information regarding health insurance coverage (Form 1095 A, 1095-B, 1095-C, Medicare card, or Certificate of Exemption)
    • Account and routing numbers for your checking and savings accounts to direct deposit your refund
    • Property tax bill
    • Records of education-related expenses, including Form 1098-T
    • Any letters from the IRS, if applicable
    • Copy of your tax return or tax transcript, if filing an amended return

    Keywords: tax return, tax preparation

  • Where is my tax refund?

    You can track your federal refund by completing the "Get Refund Status" form on the IRS website. You will be prompted to provide your personal information before you can obtain your refund status. For Illinois state returns, see "Where's My Refund?" on the Illinois Department of Revenue website.

    Keywords: refund, tax refund, federal, state, money

  • 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).

    Keywords: mistake, tax return, federal

  • What should I do if my return has been rejected?

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

    Keywords: rejected, letter

  • How can I obtain a copy of my tax return?

    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). You can also visit the IRS website here to get your copy for a fee, or to obtain a free tax return transcript for the last three years. 

    Keywords: tax return, return, copy

  • Who can I claim on my return?

    Generally, you can claim your children who lived with you if they’re under 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. Check with your tax adviser or go to for additional information.

    Keywords: tax return, dependents, claim

  • 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).

    Keywords: tax return, change, amendment

  • I missed the April filing deadline. What are my options, and what are the penalties for missing the deadline?

    If you don't think you'll make the April filing deadline, file an Extension (Form 4868), which will give you until October 15 to file without incurring a late penalty. If you expect to have a balance due, pay at least 90% of the balance due with the extension form to avoid failure to pay on time penalties. In either case, mail Form 4868 early enough so it 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, the IRS and/or the Illinois Department of Revenue 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.

    Keywords: deadline, penalty

  • How can I file tax returns for prior years?

    During the tax season, whether or not we can help to prepare your prior years returns during tax season will depend on the capacity of the tax site that you visit. The manager of the site has the right to refuse to do prior year returns if the site is too busy. Arriving early in the tax season and as early in the day as you can will give you the best chance at being served. After the tax season, or if we cannot prepare your prior year returns during the tax season, we host Money Action Days at CEP where we will be able to prepare all prior year returns.

    At our tax sites we can only prepare the current year and three previous years: 2017, 2016, 2015, and 2014. After tax season at one of our Money Action Days, we can help to file tax returns for as far back as our software allows.

    Keywords: prior year, last year, another year

  • 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, social security benefits may be taxable if you received additional income from other sources, including interest, dividends, and self-employment.

    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 or partially taxable. Check with your tax adviser or go to for additional information.

    Unemployment Benefits

    Normally, unemployment benefits are taxable. If you received unemployment compensation during the year, you should receive a Form 1099-G showing the amount you were paid. Generally, any unemployment compensation received during the year must be included in your income.

    Keywords: tax return, social security, disability, pension, unemployment

  • 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. CEP 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 the documents necessary to prove your right to the credit.

    Keywords: adoption

  • I do not have healthcare and have heard that I may have to pay a penalty. What are my options?

    For those who do not have coverage, who anticipate discontinuing the coverage they have currently, or who want to explore whether more affordable options are available, the Health Insurance Marketplace is open in every state and the District of Columbia. The Marketplace helps individuals compare available coverage options, assess their eligibility for financial assistance, and find minimum essential coverage that fits their budget.

    For those seeking an exemption from the individual responsibility provision, the Marketplace is able to provide certificates of exemption for some of the exemption categories.

    For more information about the Marketplace, visit the Health Insurance Marketplace website. To find help in your area, go to

    Keywords: Obamacare, health insurance, ACA, Affordable Care Act, Penalty

  • 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 the Illinois Department of Revenue created worksheets to help you answer this question. You can use Form 1040-ES and Form IL-1040-ES to see if estimated payments are required.

    Keywords: self-employment, quarterly payments

  • I received a letter telling me to apply for the EITC. What is the EITC (Earned Income Tax Credit) and how do I qualify?

    The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a tax credit for people who work and qualify by income. The income must be from taxable, working wages and does not include income from sources like interest, dividends, social security benefits, railroad retirement benefits, or unemployment compensation.

    2017 qualification requirements:

    • For people who file as Single, Head of Household, or Widowed: $15,010 (with no children), $39,617 (with one child), $45,007 (with two children), or $48,340 (with three children).
    • For people who file as Married Filing Jointly: $20,600 (with no children), $45,207 (with one child), $50,597 (with two children), or $53,930 (with three or more children).
    • The taxpayer (and spouse) must have valid social security cards, and must not have investment income over $3,450.

    If you qualify, CEP can help you claim the Earned Income Tax Credit when we prepare your taxes at one of our tax sites, or online with our free filing software.

    Keywords: earned income tax credit, EITC

  • How do I apply for or renew an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)?

    View our ITIN tips for information about applying for or renewing your ITIN.

    Keywords: ITIN, Individual Taxpayer Identification Number

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

    If you received a letter from IRS, we may be able to help. Call us at (312) 252-0280 (Option 3 for Tax Clinic). You can review common tax issues on our legal tax clinic page.

    Keywords: notice, letter

  • 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. During an audit, the taxpayer is asked to prove that they qualified for the deductions and credits they claimed. If the IRS determines someone owes taxes, they 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 by making affordable payment arrangements. You can also contact us if you need to file a Tax Court petition or need full Tax Court representation.

    Keywords: audit, tax court, levy, collection, lawyer, tax clinic

  • 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 that:

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

    Keywords: qualify

  • I am an international student who works. Where can I go to file my tax returns?

    Students, teachers, or trainees who are present in the United States on a "F," "J," "M," or "Q" visa and who have received U.S. sourced income are required to file a Form 1040NR (U.S. Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return) or Form 1040NR-EZ (U.S. Income Tax Return for Certain Nonresident Aliens With No Dependents). This requires a Social Security Number (SSN) or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).

    Unfortunately, the Center for Economic Progress does not prepare the Form 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ. You may utilize the IRS VITA locator to determine if there are other VITA organizations near you who prepare the Form 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ.

    Keywords: international student, non-resident

  • Does CEP work with self-employed individuals?

    If you meet our income eligibility guidelines and have a small business, we can help you file your personal income taxes. CEP also offers periodic small business workshops to deal with issues surrounding the tax implications of owning a small business.

    Keywords: self-employment, schedule C

  • I saved part of my refund with a Savings Bond, but I did not receive it. What should I do?

    The first step is to check the status of your refund by going to the "Where's My Refund?" feature on or by calling 1-800-829-1954. You can generally get information about your refund 72 hours after the IRS acknowledges receipt of your electronically filed return, or three to four weeks after mailing a paper return. If the IRS has processed your refund and placed the order for your savings bonds, you will need to contact the Treasury Retail Securities Site in Minneapolis at 1-800-553-2663 to inquire about the status of your savings bonds.

    Keywords: savings bond, savings, tax time savings

  • How long will it take to get my savings bonds?

    Your savings bonds are ordered after the IRS completes processing your tax return. Once ordered, it may take up to three weeks for your savings bond to arrive in the mail. If you're having a portion of your refund deposited directly into your bank account, you may receive that portion of your refund before your savings bonds arrive by mail.

    Keywords: savings bond, savings, tax time savings

  • Did I win the $100/Grand Prize Drawing?

    Winners of our Savings Campaign drawing are randomly selected and notified by phone or email, depending on what contact information was provided. If you have not been contacted, unfortunately, you were probably not selected. If you have any questions, please call our customer service.

    Keywords: tax time savings, winner, weekly drawing

  • Who is eligible to enter the Save Your Refund raffle?

    All tax filers over age 18 who are due a federal tax refund, are legal residents of the U.S. or ITIN-holders, and split $50 or more of their federal tax refund into a qualified savings product using IRS Form 8888 are eligible to enter the national Save Your Refund raffle. 

  • I noticed the CFR Focus Card is a US Bank Prepaid card. Does that mean I can go to a US Bank branch to talk to someone about my card?

    Unfortunately, no. The CFR Focus prepaid card is not managed by the branch system and the tellers at the banks do not have access to your account. For help, please call the customer service number printed on your card, 1-877-474-0010.

    Keywords: prepaid debit card, CFR focus card, US Bank

  • I haven't received my CFR Focus prepaid card yet. When will I receive it?

    Your CFR Focus Card should arrive in the mail in 7-10 business days. It will arrive in a plain white envelope.

    Keywords: prepaid debit card, CFR focus card, US Bank

  • I have questions about using my CFR Focus Prepaid Card. Who can I talk to?

    Call the Focus Card customer service line at 1-877-474-0010.

    Keywords: prepaid debit card, CFR focus card, US Bank, Financial Coaching

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