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Friday Facts: Government Information You Can Use

This Week's Facts:

  1. Help Raise MS Awareness throughout March

  2. Department of Revenue Delivers Important Tax Tips

  3. More Hoosiers Turning to Electronic Filing of Taxes

  4. USA.gov Outlines Replacing Lost Vital Records

  5. US Geological Survey Shares Science of Sinkholes

DNR Offering Guided Park
Hikes for Outdoor Enthusiasts

While Spring doesn’t officially begin until 7:02 A.M. (EDT) on March 20, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Nature Preserves has announced an opportunity for hikers to experience spring wildflowers in bloom and Indiana’s old-growth forests.  Now through April 6, you can sign up for a guided hike at select state nature preserves.  The hikes will take place across the state on Saturday, April 20 (Earth Day) and Saturday, May 11 (Mother’s Day weekend). Space is limited, so participants are encouraged to register early.
For more information and to register online please visit: NaturePreserves.dnr.IN.gov

The hikes are free and will start at 10 a.m. local time at the following state nature preserves:

- Calli (North Vernon, Jennings County)
- Eagle's Crest, in Eagle Creek Park (Indianapolis)
- Donaldson's Woods, in Spring Mill State Park (Mitchell, Lawrence County)
- Dunes, in Indiana Dunes State Park (Chesterton, Porter County)
- Olin Lake (Wolcottville, LaGrange County)
- Shrader-Weaver (Bentonville, Fayette County)
- Rocky Hollow-Falls Canyon, in Turkey Run State Park (Marshall, Park County)
- Warbler Woods, in Fort Harrison State Park (Indianapolis)


US Geological Survey Shares Science of Sinkholes

Sinkholes have been making headlines lately with the tragedy in Florida and the golfer in Illinois. What is it, exactly, that causes sinkholes? The U.S. Geological Survey gives us the science of sinkholes. Approximately 20% of the United States lies in areas at risk to sinkhole events. The most damage from sinkholes tends to occur in Florida, Texas, Alabama, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania.  A sinkhole is a depression in the ground that has no natural external surface drainage. When it rains, all of the water stays inside the sinkhole and drains into the subsurface. Sinkholes are most common in what geologists call, “karst terrain,”which are regions where the type of rock below the land surface can naturally be dissolved by groundwater circulating through them. Sinkholes are dramatic because the land usually stays intact for a period of time until the underground spaces just get too big.  If there is not enough support for the land above the spaces, then a sudden collapse of the land surface can occur.  While collapses are more frequent after intense rainstorms, there is some evidence that droughts play a role as well.  Areas where water levels have lowered suddenly are more prone to collapse formation. You can learn more about sinkholes on the USGS website or a USGS fact sheet.   


Friday Facts Editorial Team:

Katharine Springer
State Data Center Coordinator

Kim Brown-Harden
Federal Documents Coordinator

Andrea Glenn
State Documents Coordinator

Indiana Federal Depository Library Program


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Help Raise MS Awareness throughout March

MS Awareness WeekMarch is Multiple Sclerosis, or MS, Awareness Month according to the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society recognizes MS Awareness week this week, March 11-17. Most people have heard of MS before – on the news, within families or social groups, or in passing. Its name can be easily confused with MD (Muscular Dystrophy) or other health conditions using similar acronyms. Read further to learn more!

What is MS? MS stands for Multiple Sclerosis. Scleroses are areas of tissue that have become hardened, scarred, or abnormally formed. In the case of MS, these scleroses are in the brain. They can cause the following, according to the Medline Plus MS information portal:

  • Visual disturbances
  • Muscle weakness
  • Trouble with coordination and balance
  • Sensations such as numbness, prickling, or "pins and needles"
  • Thinking and memory problems

What causes it? No one knows the exact causes. With MS, the body’s immune system attacks itself, which is why it is thought of as an autoimmune disorder.

Who has it? The MS Society estimated that 400,000 individuals in the U.S. had MS in 2002.

How is it treated? MS can now be treated many ways – with medications which can manage its progress and others that improve symptoms. Physical therapy also helps MS patients.

What is being done to educate the public? You can find reliable information about MS, including contact information for support organizations on U.S. government websites like the National Institute of Neurologic Disorders and Stroke’s Hope through Research website and WomensHealth.gov. Helpful medical websites include the Mayo Clinic and the United Kingdom’s National Health Service.

There is also an MS International Federation website available in 15 languages where you learn about MS, view new research and resources, and sign up for weekly newsletters from the international community.

Department of Revenue Delivers Important Tax Tips

Tax Tips from IDORThe Indiana Department of Revenue recently released some important, need-to-know tax tips for Indiana taxpayers. With just a month left of tax season, here are some tips from the DOR:

How to choose a tax preparer:
There are many reputable agents who can help you do your taxes. Just remember to be careful. Check the Indiana CPA Society (www.incpas.org), Indiana Society of Enrolled Agents (www.indianaenrolledagents.com), the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org) and the opinions of your friends and relatives. Letting someone else do your taxes means you are exposing your personal information to someone you might not know, so make sure you find someone you can trust.

Additional tips:

  • Learn how much they will charge you before your return is prepared.
  • Avoid preparers who base their fees on a percentage of the amount of your refund, or who claim they can obtain larger refunds than other preparers.
  • Only use a tax professional who provides you a copy of your return to keep for your records.
  • Never use a tax preparer who asks you to sign a blank tax form.
  • Choose a tax preparer who will be around to answer questions after the return has been filed.
  • Ask questions. See if the tax preparer belongs to a professional organization(s).
  • Before you sign your tax return, or authorize it to be filed electronically, review the return and ask questions.

More information about choosing professional tax preparers is available at www.in.gov/dor/4618.htm.

More Hoosiers Turning to Electronic Filing of Taxes

INfreefileWith the tax season underway, many taxpayers are filing electronically this year using INfreefile if they qualify, or using certified vendors. Last year, nearly three-quarters of Indiana filers used some type of electronic filing. Of those returns filed, 99 percent were accurate, meaning that they were error free! Error free results in faster refunds.

But there are still taxpayers who file on paper, and nearly 20 percent of paper-filed returns are inaccurate or have mistakes.  The Indiana Department of Revenue accepts paper filing as a method of filing your taxes. Access all of our forms and booklets online

Here are the top three filing errors on paper returns:

  • Forgotten attachments. If you forget that W-2, or a Schedule 2 to support a renter’s deduction or a homeowner’s property tax deduction claim, we’ll have to send a letter requesting that information.
  • Claiming more deductions and credits than entitled. For example, $3,000 is the most you can claim as a renter’s deduction; claiming more than that will cause your return to be put on hold and reviewed, which will result in a delayed refund or a bill.
  • Math errors. Even with a calculator, it’s easy to miss a step, to add where we should have subtracted or to transpose some numbers when writing them down.

For more information about this year’s tax season, please visit www.in.gov/dor.

USA.gov Outlines Replacing Lost Vital Records

USA.govVital records, like birth and marriage certificates and military service records are often necessary to access a variety of government benefits and services. But sometimes life happens and those vital records go missing. Maybe they were misplaced in a move, were stolen or got damaged in a fire.

USA.gov has information to help you find copies and replacements of your vital records so you can apply for whatever benefits and services you need.

Birth, Marriage and Death Certificates
These records come from the states. To find a copy, you’ll have to contact that state office where the life event occurred. Find the contact information for state and territory offices that can help you.

Passport
Report lost or stolen passports to the State Department right away by calling 1-877-487-2778. To report and replace the lost or stolen passport, you’ll have to submit forms DS-11 and DS- 64 in person at a passport agency or acceptance facility. If you lose a passport, and then find it again, you won’t be able to use it to travel. You should return the lost passport and request a new one.

Military Service Records
You often need copies of military service records to apply for a variety of government programs available for veterans, like health care, retirement or education benefits. The National Archives keeps copies of all veterans’ services records, and you can apply online to receive a copy of yours or an immediate family member’s if they are deceased. If you prefer to mail or fax a request for your records, you can download form SF-180. You can also find out how to replace lost military medals and awards.

Social Security Card
If you can’t find your Social Security card, you may not actually need to replace it. As long as you know your Social Security number, you will still be able to collect Social Security benefits, get a job and apply for many government benefits and services. However, if you do want to replace the card, you’ll need to gather documents proving your identity and citizenship to mail or take to a local Social Security office.

Green Card
If you have a U.S. Permanent Resident (Green) Card, you may need to replace it if it was lost, stolen or damaged or if your name or other biographical information has legally changed since it was issued. You can easily request a new one online. If you’re outside the United States and have lost your green card, you should contact the nearest U.S. consulate or immigrations office before you apply online for a new card.

If you need help getting copies of other vital records like tax returns or school records, you can find the information you need to replace them at USA.gov.

This information is brought to you by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) via the USA.gov blog.

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