Looking for tax help in lots of online places
Monday, February 20, 2017
Working on your taxes this Presidents Day? You are most definitely not alone.
The day following what officially is still just a celebration of Washington's Birthday is typically the busiest day of the year for Internal Revenue Service phone reps. They usually field thousands of calls per hour on the third Tuesday of every February.
To help ease some of tomorrow's expected call crunch, the IRS phone help line is open today, Monday, Feb. 20, even though it's a federal holiday. IRS representatives will be taking taxpayer questions today until the callers' local clocks chime 7 p.m.
However, instead of calling, be it today, tomorrow or any date, the IRS suggests that we use one of the tax agency's other help options, like its app IRS2Go.
Free File on the go: With the IRS2Go app you can track your refund or, if you owe, make tax payments directly from your bank account or via a credit or debit card.
The app also has a link to payment options if you don't have the tax due cash right now.
And if you're not sure yet whether you owe or are getting a refund because you haven’t completed your return, then you can do that from your mobile device, too.
That's right. The IRS notes that you can use IRS2Go on your smart phone or tablet to electronically prepare and file your federal and state tax returns through IRS Free File.
The IRS and its private-sector Free File Alliance partners now support a design that allows for electronic tax prep and free filing from, in addition to desktop and laptop computers, our mobile phones and tablets.
Regular Free File rules apply: IRS2Go, which is downloadable on either Android or iOS devices, has a link to the Free File Software Lookup Tool. Once there, click on the Tax Help button at the bottom of the screen and then select IRS Free File.
After answering a few questions to ensure that you qualify to use the service -- the key determinant is that your adjusted gross income is no more than $64,000 regardless of your filing status -- you can see which of the 12 Free File options this year are available for you.
Pick one and get to work filing on the go. Note that each Free File software participant sets its own eligibility requirements for its product. These generally are based on age, income or state residency.
I was offered two ways to file for free via my iPhone and started the process with both programs.
State Free File considerations: A quick personal note about my choices. Since I'm in Texas, a state that doesn't collect any kind of personal income tax, I didn't have to worry about a tax return at that level.
However, if you live in one of the 43 other states or Washington, D.C. that collect some sort of individual income taxes, your state location will help narrow down your Free File choices.
And take care if you're looking for gratis tax filing help beyond your federal 1040. Some Free File companies offer free federal and free state tax return preparation. Others charge a fee for state return preparation.
Popular IRS app: This mobile filing option may be one reason why IRS2Go is near the top of smart phone apps. At least on my phone.
When I checked the apps top charts section on my phone the IRS app, as the screenshot at left shows, came in second.
It also bested such wildly popular (so I'm told) apps as Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and Spotify.
Of course, timing is everything, in life and especially in taxes.
I suspect that as the tax season progresses, the app will drop in popularity.
But good for the IRS for having a mobile option that seems to be working for it and taxpayers.
PC, laptop for me: As for my foray onto to hand-held tax filing, sorry Free File companies for getting your hopes up with my iPhone filing test. I am not going to complete my 1040 on my device.
I do a lot of stuff via my phone and it's nice to have this tax option, too.
But I'm still much more comfortable using my computer to fill out my 1040.
I make enough typos just texting inconsequential stuff on a tiny phone screen. I definitely don't need that to happen with my taxes!
Other online tax help options: I might use my phone, however, for other tax tasks.
And if instead I prefer another online tax option, the IRS has me -- and you! -- covered there, too.
If you don't want to use your phone or tablet to find out your refund's status, you can head to IRS.gov to check "Where's My Refund?" But please, regardless of how you get to the tool, the IRS asks that you click on it only once a day.
As for other tax questions, a perusal of the IRS.gov home page offers lots of other info and options.
If you don't see what you need there, check out the IRS Tax Map, where you can search by topic or keyword to find tax-law information by subject. Or you can go straight to the search box at the top of the IRS.gov page and enter what you're specifically hoping to find.
There's also the IRS' Interactive Tax Assistant, which will take you through a series of questions just like a customer service representatives would.
Personally, I'm still a big fan of Publication 17. This annually updated document is now available online as a searchable income tax guide.
IRL tax help, too: Sometimes, though, you need to talk taxes literally face-to-face. In these cases, you can get in real life (IRL) help at a local IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center, or TAC in IRS acronymese.
But before heading out to your local TAC, which you can locate here, you need to call first. Since these offices are jammed this time of year, IRS agents there are now meeting with people by appointment only.
Also consider taking advantage of one of the around 13,000 Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) sites that operate nationwide during filing season. To find a location near you, head back to your computer and search Free Tax Help on IRS.gov.
Regardless of how you find the tax information you need -- a lot of which (shameless self-promotion alert!) also can be found here on the ol' blog -- to file your return, here's hoping you have a successful 2017 filing season.
And here's also hoping that you get to spend some of this Washington's Birthday/Presidents Day doing something other than your taxes!
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