VOL. 114 | NO. 23 | Friday, February 4, 2000
IRS offers tax help by phone, on Saturdays
IRS offers phone-in, Saturday tax help
By KATHLEEN BURT
The Daily News
The taxman cometh.
By now, every taxpayer who can be reached by the Internal Revenue Service has been sent the necessary forms or a postcard, which serves as a reminder that it is time to give the government its due.
And, as it has in the past, the IRS is giving back, not only in the form of refunds, but also through tax preparation assistance and a number of ways to file tax forms.
The calendar also is a friend of taxpayers this year. Because April 15 falls on Saturday, citizens have until Monday, April 17 to file.
A number of opportunities are available around Shelby County for those who need assistance filing tax returns.
The IRS telephone help line is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week during the filing season, including holidays. The toll-free number is 1-800-829-1040 for assistance with tax account or general tax law questions.
The walk-in schedule for the IRS office at 22 N. Front St. is 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, with extended hours on Tuesday and Thursday, from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
As the filing deadline nears, the office will open on Sunday, April 16 from 12:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Monday, April 17 from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
IRS representatives will be available to provide assistance in filling out forms and there will be no charge for the service.
One of the forms that many filers lament each year is the Earned Income Credit. The form, used mainly by low- to moderate-income people with children, gives a tax credit for those who work.
Because this credit can be difficult to calculate, the IRS office will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturdays through Feb. 26 in order to provide special assistance to those needing help with this form.
Other places, such as libraries and community centers, are setting up tax assistance stations as well. For locations, call 1-800-829-1040.
Congress did citizens a favor in 1999 by imposing no major changes to the tax code.
One benefit to filers with children is the Child Tax Credit, which was increased from $400 to $500 in the 1999 fiscal year.
In addition, some smoking cessation programs now can be counted among medical expenses, said Dan Boone, spokesperson for the IRS Kentucky-Tennessee District.
Medical expenses, however, must meet the 7.5 percent threshold of adjusted gross income in order to be deductible.
``Its fortunate for those of us who file tax returns that things are pretty much the same as last year. That makes it easier, Boone said.
In addition, if the only investment income a filer had in 1999 was capital gains distribution, then a Schedule D might not have to be filed; that distribution could be claimed on the 1040, he said.
Once all the forms and schedules are completed, there are a number of ways to send those forms to the IRS.
Filing can be done again this year by computer. Some companies offer free e-filing on the Internet. More than 660,000 Tennesseans either filed from their home computer or let a tax preparer file their return electronically in 1999.
Those who received a postcard with an e-file customer number can file this way, Boone said.
The quickest and most accessible way to file is by telephone. These filers received the purple Telefile booklet in the mail. The call takes about 10 minutes through a toll-free number.
``About half of the population will not get the traditional tax booklet in the mail this year from the IRS, Boone said. ``The big advantage to electronic filing is the extremely low error rates. The error rate for electronic returns is less than a half of a percent, as opposed to paper returns, which is about 18 percent. And if you dont make errors, you dont get messages from the IRS.
For those who must pay the piper and wish to do so by credit card, MasterCard, American Express and Discover are accepted. In addition, those who wish to have taxes debited from a checking account can file a return and set the date up to April 17 for the transaction. Of course, a paper check is still accepted.
For those expecting a refund, Boone highly recommends having it direct deposited into a bank account. Refunds are processed faster and it eliminates lost checks. That option is available for those filing by any method.
For more information, forms or links to authorized commercial e-file sites, visit the IRS Web site at www.irs.gov.