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Our View: Prepare now for 'nightmare' tax season

Of the many failures of the Minnesota Legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton last year, this one may hurt everyday Minnesotans the most: the inability of the governor and lawmakers to align the state's income tax rules with the federal government's 201...

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Cameron Cardow/Cagle Cartoons

Of the many failures of the Minnesota Legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton last year, this one may hurt everyday Minnesotans the most: the inability of the governor and lawmakers to align the state's income tax rules with the federal government's 2017 federal tax overhaul.

They knew they needed to get it done and didn't. As a result, filing tax returns this spring will be "a nightmare" for most Minnesotans, as White Bear Lake, Minn., tax preparer Elizabeth Bystrom said in an Associated Press story over the weekend. "It's going to be very complicated."

With dramatic changes to federal tax laws and little to no change in response from St. Paul, confusion and headaches can be expected. Some deductions eliminated at the federal level may still be acceptable by the state, and some new federal tax breaks may not be allowed at the state level. Further, many Minnesotans who had been able to skip itemizing on their state returns could lose out on federal tax breaks if they don't start itemizing. That's regardless of whether they're prepared to itemize or not, with receipts and documentation for their deductions.

Sure, legislators and newly elected Gov. Tim Walz could quickly pass a tax conformity bill when they convene for the 2019 session early next month. But it'd be too late to fix the mess facing Minnesota taxpayers in just a few weeks.

In addition to the heightened hassle, preparing returns with the help of a professional promises to be pricier. Bystrom told the AP that professional tax preparers will charge more because of the complexity and the extra time they'll need. Exacerbating that is the new federal tax law's elimination of a deduction for tax-preparation fees.

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Recognizing the mess, the Minnesota Department of Revenue Monday offered tips for taxpayers preparing to file in 2019.

File electronically, the department said in its statement. It's easy, convenient, and ensures the use of the most up-to-date forms and instructions. Free electronic filing is available for Minnesotans who meet eligibility requirements.

Use direct deposit to get your refund, the department also said. Again, it's easiest and most convenient, and it's secure. Direct deposit is available whether returns are filed electronically or by mail.

And save your receipts from throughout the year, the department reminded. Receipts are needed to prove deductible expenses and charitable contributions.

Confused? Angry? Blame Gov. Dayton and last year's Legislature for failing to put their politics aside and responsibly do what was best for the people of Minnesota. Then go to revenue.state.mn.us for more information. You can also sign up for the department's Tax Law Changes email list. Prepare now for what promises to be a rough tax season.

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