Oh S**T… the IRS isn’t mailing out paper tax forms this year?
If you—like, ahem, yours truly–wait until the last possible minute to file taxes, here’s your oh-s**t-moment to take heed: the IRS isn’t mailing out paper forms this year. Yes, for the first time in an effort to truly push electronic-filing, the IRS isn’t mailing forms in the hopes this will force more individual filers to the Internet and into permanently e-filing.
If you need to download forms, here is a link to an article I wrote for the Philadelphia Inquirer with all the IRS web sites and some free–yes, free–tax assistance resources. It’s also pasted below.
Free help available for income-tax filers
By Erin E. Arvedlund
In light of the increasingly confusing new tax law, we thought it timely to publish some helpful ideas on where to get free – yes, free – tax-preparation assistance as the April 18 filing deadline draws near.
There is plenty of help out there: You can speak with an Internal Revenue Service agent in person, or with an experienced accountant over the phone. Here are some possibilities:
Free IRS seminars
If you aren’t scared of actually setting foot in a government agency, this seminar is for you. On Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., the IRS will provide free tax assistance at 97 locations nationwide. A list of locations can be found at www.irs.gov.
These Saturday open houses are being held to assist taxpayers who have questions on filing tax returns, as well as those with account questions, such as collection or examination issues. During open-house hours, IRS personnel will be available to provide services such as tax-return preparation and free seminars on new laws affecting this year’s returns.
The IRS is not sending out paper forms this year in an effort to promote “e-filing.” What if you have to file a paper return? The agency offers free assistance by computer, by telephone, and in person.
IRS.gov is a one-stop shop for a wide array of information. You can even prepare and file your federal tax return through Free File, a service offered by the IRS and its partners, who make available free tax-preparation software and free electronic filing.
You must go through IRS.gov to use Free File. There’s also a handy guidebook (http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/i1040gi.pdf) to 2010 tax changes.
If you believe your tax issue cannot be handled online or by phone and want face-to-face assistance, you can find help at a local IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center. Locations, business hours, and an overview of services are available at IRS.gov. Just go to the “Individuals” tab and click on the link for “Contact My Local Office” in the left toolbar section under IRS Resources.
Telephone the IRS Tax Help Line for Individuals, 1-800-829-1040, to get answers to your federal tax questions. To hear prerecorded messages covering various tax topics or check on the status of your refund, call 1-800-829-4477. TTY/TDD users may call 1-800-829-4059 to ask tax questions or order forms and publications. To order free forms, instructions, and publications, call 1-800-829-3676.
More free help
The Campaign for Working Families also files both federal and Pennsylvania state income taxes free of charge. The group aims to help working people take full advantage of public benefits available to them, including the earned-income tax credit, a refundable tax credit for low-wage earners, according to its website (www.phillyfreetaxes.org/services/freetaxprep.asp
The Campaign for Working Families also has a useful checklist to help you avoid getting ripped off by unscrupulous “tax refund” lenders.
You probably have seen or heard the TV and radio offers or advertisements for “instant money” that surface every year right around tax time. These deals are actually expensive loans, not tax refunds. These firms tack on enormous fees just to get your own money back from the government. If your refund is denied, or smaller than expected, you still have to pay the loan back – in full. Don’t get taken. Free tax-preparation sites are a vastly superior deal.
To learn more about tax-season rip-offs, go to www.phillyfreetaxes.org/aboutus/ripoffs.asp or call 215-686-2599.
For lower-income, elderly
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance programs help people who earn $49,000 or less, and Tax Counseling for the Elderly programs assist older individuals with their tax preparations. Many of these sites have Saturday hours, while others offer assistance during the week.
Taxpayers can call 1-800-906-9887 to locate partner sites in their area. After locating the office nearest you, remember to ask which documents you and/or your spouse must bring, such as a valid photo identification, copies of W-2s, proof of other federal tax income withheld, etc.