Federal Tax Info, by Charles W. Evans
Sources for CY2002
As conscientiously as you may plan ahead, there is always some obscure little form missing, or irksome question you need to ask at the last minute. These sources should make life a bit less stressful and your tax preparation easier. I can't make your preparation less arduous, but the information below will make it easier.
NOTE: The IRS will not guarantee its own advice. On-line e-Filing is big this year and for some it is free!
There are a number of info sources, help, resources and tips (yes, tips!) on the IRS web site. It is user-friendly, easy to navigate and you can download and print any form. Two suggestions: print your forms on a laser printer and always use forms from only the IRS site. The Digital Daily, at www.irs.gov, is the IRS home page.
If you need forms, you'll need form numbers, so call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 for the numbers. If you are familiar with FTP, go to ftp.irs.gov. For personal assistance on tax law and account questions, also call 1-800-829-1040. Just remember that their advice is not guaranteed.
For early birds: The IRS will snail-mail forms and publications. Just call 1-800-TAX-FORM (1-800-829-3676) and allow sufficient time to process your request. I'd suggest you first request Publication #910, Guide to Free Tax Services. For the more daring, actually go to the nearest IRS office to obtain forms. The US Postal Service has some of the more commonly used forms in the lobby. Master copies are at most libraries, where you can make a photocopy. The IRS will accept photocopy forms - their main interest is in getting money, not pretty forms.
Still running late and need a form amongst the most common ones? Just call the IRS's TaxFax service at 703-368-9694. Have your fax number handy. Do you need a prior year's form? Well, the Government Printing Office has a CD to solve that problem as well. Forms since 1994 are just a phone call away: 1-202-512-1800. There is a fee.
For answers to simple, uncomplicated questions, use the FAX or voice number. Here again the IRS makes it easier for you to part with your money. Call TeleTax for answers and info on about 170 of the most common subjects, 24/7 at either 1-800-829-4477 or, in the Houston area, 713-541-3400. If your question is not among those covered, you'll need to talk to a real, live person during normal business hours. You can also use this TeleTax service to inquire about the status of your return and/or refund. But be patient and wait about five weeks after filing your paper return or three weeks for electronic filings.
Want a quick file and "rebate"? This is a bit more complicated. Many tax prep programs now include the provision to file electronically (e-Filing). Most also allow an OCR mode to prepare your return, which is acceptable by the IRS. There are services available specifically for e-Filing.
If you are like most of us, you'll be down to the April 15th deadline (Tuesday) when you actually put your return in the mail. Plan ahead and find out which post offices will be open until midnight. They are usually easy to spot. Just look for a very long line of cars with someone standing outside next to a mailbox!
PRECAUTION: Double-check these most common errors: everyone whose name is on the first line of the form should sign it and check the accuracy of the SSNs and dependents.
Web Sources for Assistance
Software specific: Each of the tax prep software sites typically has related tax info, including state tax forms, tax schedules, etc.
For the really serious taxpayer: the complete [about 21 megs of text] tax code on line! Go to: www.fourmilab.ch/ustax/ustax.html.
If you need an IRS form, I'd suggest going to the IRS site rather than a commercial one, to insure you have the latest "version" of the form. NOTE: For forms you will need Acrobat Reader, free at www.adobe.com.
Charles W. Evans is a HAL-PC member, Reviews Editor and fellow taxpayer, whose e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tax Refund Notice
Once your tax refund check euphoria has subsided, just remember that it was your money in the first place! Enjoy.
Charles W. Evans is a HAL-PC member and the Magazine’s Reviews Editor who can be contacted at email@example.com