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Don't call us, says the IRS. Go online instead for tax help

If you're planning on working on your tax return over this long Presidents Day weekend, expect to be on hold for a while if you call the Internal Revenue Service for help.

Lily_Tomlin_as_Ernestine_telephone_operatorThat's not just my prediction. That's the official word from the tax agency.

To save yourself some hold time frustration (even if you happen to like the background music), the IRS says don't call us. Just that. No we'll call you. Simply Don't. Call. Us.

Instead, use the IRS online offerings.

That request is not a surprise. As I discussed over at Bankrate Taxes Blog back in December, the IRS is pushing its new tax robot overlords -- I mean its automated services -- this filing season.

That plan is now in full force.

First filing season phone crush: The IRS says the three-day Presidents Day weekend is one of the busiest times of the year for its tax question telephone line.

Folks have finally received their W-2s and other tax documents and are working on their 1040s. When they run into a problem, they call the IRS' 1-800-829-1040 toll-free hotline.

But a reduction in resources has prompted Uncle Sam to reduce the number of folks it has staffing tax help outlets, including telephones. And fewer people to answer phones means longer waits for answers.

So the IRS is encouraging taxpayers, this weekend and during the rest of the filing season, to use electronic alternatives at, starting at the 1040 Central page.

Where to click: The IRS offers plenty of other online services. Today's Daily Tax Tip highlights some of those features in the table below.


General Tax Law Information

  • Use the Interactive Tax Assistant, the IRS' online tool that will ask you questions and provide tax law answers.
  • Check out the IRS Publication 17, Tax Map or Tax Trails for more detailed information (and interactive links) by tax topic.
  • Call TeleTax toll-free at 1-800-829-4477 to hear recorded information on a variety of tax topics.
  • Find even more tax info at the IRS' Help & Resources page.





Preparing a Federal Tax Return

  • The IRS' Filing page offers links to popular ways to submit your return at no cost, including Free File and Free Fillable Forms.
  • Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) offers free filing help for folks who meet income requirements ($52,000 or less). You can find the nearest VITA site via the online search tool or by calling toll-free 1-800-906-9887. 
  • Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE), as the name indicates, offers free filing help for older taxpayers. You can find the nearest TCE site via the AARP's online search tool or by calling toll-free 1-888-227-7669.
  • If you want more personal help, there's a link to help you locate an IRS authorized e-file provider. Remember, you'll generally have to pay for these services.


Obtaining Tax Forms or Publications

Understanding Identity Theft Issues
  • Guidance on tax-related identity theft issues can be found at the IRS' Identity Protection page.
  • Follow the link above or type "identity theft" (quotation marks not required) into the search box at the upper right of
  • If you believe you're at risk due to a lost or stolen purse or wallet, questionable credit card activity or credit report issues, contact the Identity Protection Specialized Unit (IPSU) at 1-800-908-4490.

Checking Tax Refund Status
  • The quickest way to find out just where in the system is your tax refund is to go to Where’s My Refund? You also can find a link on the home page.
  • If you have a smartphone, download the free IRS2Go app to check on your refund.
  • If you prefer to use your phone as a phone, call the IRS' toll-free automated refund hotline at 1-800-829-1954.


Making a Tax Payment

For even more for online resources, check out Publication 5136, also known as the IRS Services Guide. There's even a special section for tax professionals.

Here's hoping these links help out with your filing this weekend or later in the season.

Here's also hoping you get your 1040 done quickly so you still have time to enjoy the three-day weekend.

Handheld tax help: One of the resources the IRS is emphasizing this year is its free smartphone app IRS2Go. It's available for iPhone owners at the iTunes app store; Android device devotees can download it at Google Play.

Bankrate Taxes Blog iconAs I noted last week at my other tax blog, the IRS has upgraded its mobile app, introduced three years ago, for the 2014 filing season. You can still use your phone to check on your tax refund's status, as well as now find VITA and TCE locations and order tax transcripts.

Also over at Bankrate Taxes Blog last week I looked at what role the record number of U.S. expatriates last year should play in coming tax reform talks.

My tax thoughts for Bankrate are usually posted at the personal finance site each Tuesday and Thursday. If you happen to miss them then and there, check here on the weekend (most of the time!) for a synopsis.

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