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Rhode Islanders have never been afraid to go their own way — the state was one of just two that never ratified the 18th Amendment, which established Prohibition.
The state has exercised that independent streak again in 2018, passing legislation that will preserve personal exemptions at the state level, despite the suspension of federal-level personal exemptions through the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.
Before you file your Rhode Island state tax return, it’s important to know when your return and payment are due, and what options you have to reduce how much you owe. Here’s a basic breakdown of the Rhode Island state tax return to help you get started.
The basics of Rhode Island state tax
If you live in Rhode Island and were required to file a federal income tax return, you must also file a state individual income tax return. Even if you weren’t required to file a federal return, you may still have to file a state return if your income for the tax year exceeds the total of your exemptions and standard deduction.
The Division of Taxation handles taxes in the Ocean State. You can get help with your personal income tax questions by calling 1-401-574-8829 and choosing Option 3. Or you can send an email to email@example.com.
Filing and payment deadline
The deadline for your Rhode Island state tax return falls on the same day as your federal return, which is April 15. But if the 15th occurs on a holiday or weekend, the due date is the next business day.
If you can’t file on time, you can probably get an automatic six-month extension. You’ll need to file form RI-4868 by the original filing due date to get the extension. If you don’t owe any tax to Rhode Island, and you filed for and received a federal extension for the same tax year, you don’t need to submit RI-4868. Instead, you’ll attach your federal Form 4868 or the electronic acknowledgement you received from the IRS to your Rhode Island return.
Keep in mind that the extension doesn’t extend the time you have to pay your taxes. Any tax you owe is still due April 15.
If you don’t file by the due date or the end of your extension, the state will assess a failure-to-file penalty. In 2017, the penalty was 5% of your unpaid tax for each month or part of a month that your return is late, up to 25% total.
In general, your filing status on your state tax return will match what you put on your federal return.
Here are the available options.
● Head of household
● Married filing jointly
● Married filing separately
● Qualifying widow(er)
Rhode Island income tax rates
The Ocean State’s income tax rates are relatively simple compared with those of some other states. The progressive tax has only three brackets that apply to all taxpayers, regardless of filing status.
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Deductions and personal exemptions
Rhode Island doesn’t allow taxpayers to claim federal itemized deductions on their state tax return. Instead, you’ll claim a standard deduction based on your filing status. Here are the standard deductions for 2018.
- Single: $8,525
- Married filing jointly or qualifying widow(er): $17,050
- Head of household: $12,800
- Married filing separately: $8,525
In addition to a standard deduction, you can also claim a personal exemption for you and your dependents. For the 2018 tax year, the personal exemption amount is $4,000.
While you can’t claim federal itemized deductions on your Rhode Island state tax return, the state does allow a number of modifications that decrease your federal adjusted gross income — which can help lower your state tax burden. Here are a few modifications available for 2018.
- Family education accounts: You may be able to reduce your federal AGI by the amount of income you earned in a qualifying family education account. The rules for claiming this modification are complex, so be sure you read and understand them before claiming it.
- 529 plan contributions: You may be able to reduce your federal AGI by the amount you contributed toward a tuition savings program. Limits apply.
- Organ donation modification: If you lived in Rhode Island for the full year and made an organ donation, you may be able to take a modification for unreimbursed travel, lodging and lost wages incurred as a result. For 2018, the limit on the modification is $10,000.
Be aware that the state also has modifications that can increase your federal AGI — and possibly your tax burden.
Standard deduction vs. itemizing
When you file your federal income tax return, you must choose between taking a standard deduction or itemizing your deductions. Deductions reduce your taxable income and can decrease your tax liability.
Taking the standard deduction requires no additional paperwork, whereas itemizing will require you to file Schedule A along with your 1040. Learn more about the differences between the standard deduction and itemizing deductions.
Rhode Island state tax credits
Many of the tax credits the Ocean State offers are designed for businesses. There is, however, an individual tax credit that you may qualify for if you recently graduated from college.
In 2017, eligible students could receive a credit through the Stay Invested in RI Wavemaker Fellowship Tax Credits. The credits are designed for college graduates who work for a Rhode Island-based employer in any of the following fields:
- Life, natural or environmental science
- Computer, information or software technology
- Advanced mathematics or finance
- Industrial or other commercially related design
- Medicine or medical device technology
The credit amount is the graduate’s student loan burden for the year, and you can claim it for up to four years.
How to file your Rhode Island state tax return
Provided you meet certain income, age and other requirements, you may be able to file your Rhode Island state and federal income tax returns through a Free File Alliance online filing service or software vendor. Participating tax-filing software vendors, listed on the state’s website, have varying qualifications for free filing, so be sure you understand a vendor’s specific requirements before you begin preparing your taxes with them.
You can also file both your federal and single-state tax returns for free, regardless of your income, through Credit Karma Tax®.
If you’d rather file a paper return, you can download your forms from the Division of Taxation website.
Mail your paper return here if you’re expecting a refund:
Rhode Island Division of Taxation
One Capitol Hill
Providence, RI 02908-5806
But if you’re enclosing a payment, here’s where you can send it, along with your paper return and Form RI-1040V (a payment voucher):
Rhode Island Division of Taxation
One Capitol Hill
Providence, RI 02908-5807
If you owe and can’t pay
If you can’t afford your tax bill, you may be able to set up an installment plan with the state. To qualify, you’ll need to pay at least half of what you owe upfront and provide details about your income, expenses, assets and liabilities to help demonstrate why you need the payment plan.
Also, you’ll owe a failure-to-pay penalty and interest while you’re paying off what you owe. In 2017, the failure-to-pay penalty was 0.5% per month or part of a month that the tax remained unpaid, with a maximum of 25%. The interest rate was 18% annually.
Tracking your Rhode Island tax refund
If you’re expecting a refund, you can check the status online. To do so, you’ll need to provide your Social Security number, filing status and expected refund amount rounded to the nearest dollar.
Rhode Island offers a relatively low tax rate for low-income and middle-class families, and has taken steps to preserve personal exemptions at the state level for the 2018 tax year. But the Ocean State doesn’t provide a lot in the way of deductions and credits. To avoid steep penalties and interest, be sure to file your return and pay what you owe on time.
Rachel Weatherly is a tax product specialist with Credit Karma Tax®. She studied accounting and finance at Western Carolina University and has also worked as a tax analyst. You can find her on LinkedIn.