Tax Time 2000: Putting it All Together
State Taxes | Tax Tools | Advice | Problem Solving | IRS Customer Service
Washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Before you dive into this endeavor, why not ask: "Do I need to file a return?" The IRS says that many people with low incomes don't realize that they are exempt from filing. However, as a general rule of thumb, filing a return is always a good idea. Even if you are not required to file, you still may be entitled to any taxes withheld during the year or you may be eligible to claim the earned income tax credit. Also take note of your filing status. For example if you were married during 1999 and got divorced on December 27th, you are required to file as single. The IRS provides an interactive Q&A on their site that will help you determine your correct filing status.
In general you must file if you are single and are...
In general you must file if you are married and will file jointly and...
In general you must file if you qualify as head of the household and...
What Forms Do I Need?
If you're still reading this, you are probably among the millions of Americans who have to file. Most individual filers use the 1040 form. If you were employed by fewer than five employers and have less than $400 in capital gains and losses to report, you can use the 1040EZ form and be done in no time.
Meanwhile, if your financial situation is more complicated, you will not only need the 1040, but you will also need a Schedule D to report capital gains and losses, a Schedule C to report home-office and other small-business deductions and a Schedule H if you employed a household worker during 1999. And if you haven't done this already, you need to round up your W-2s from each of your employers last year. If you invested in non-deferred investments, such as stocks and mutual funds, you need a copy of your 1099 from your broker or investment company. Getting these forms is essential before beginning. If there are other deductions you wish to take, now is a good time to round up any receipts.
Use our basic checklist to see other items you will likely need to do your taxes thoroughly.
Filing the Old-Fashioned Way
The future is here and technology has made it easier and more efficient to file, pay your taxes or receive a tax return, but if you insist on doing things the old-fashioned way, get a pen, an envelope and stamp ready. The IRS will accept your filing any way you're willing to file it.
You will need to look up the address of the IRS office closest to you.
The IRS site also maintains a number of interactive questions and answers to help you with those sticky points. An electronic newsletter keeps you up to date on all the obscure deadlines (don't forget to check out the interactive tax calendar on our site).
For access to the FAQs, news, site map and more, see our IRS site guide on this page. If you're still having trouble finding answers, consider seeking some third-party advice.
You can file electronically using a system called IRS e-file, which utilizes special software that will ask you questions, provide you with the forms you need and allow you to transmit up to five returns directly to the IRS.
Through IRS e-file, your return is more likely to be error-free, you don't have to worry about papers getting lost in the mail and the IRS says you will get your refund in half the time.
Filing by Phone
Certain individuals may file their taxes over the phone using the IRS's TeleFile system. The IRS's paperless telephone filing system, is available to 1040EZ filers, who are at the same address as last year. Taxpayers receive a special tax package with a customer service number that will act as their signature. With a Touch-Tone phone, 24-hours-a-day, and in about 10 minutes, TeleFilers enter interest income, wages, unemployment compensation, tax, and the employer identification number from each Form W-2. The IRS figures the adjusted gross income, tax, and any refund or tax due while on the phone. Refunds are issued about two and a half weeks after the telephone filing and if tax is due it can be paid by April 17. Taxpayers can take advantage of Direct Deposit or Direct Debit by entering the required checking or savings account number.
You can use this option only if you have received a TeleFile booklet in your name and...
The IRS also has has authorized Official Payments Corporation (OPC) to accept credit card charges for federal taxes by phone. All individuals -- whether filing on paper or electronically -- may call 1-888-2PAY-TAX (1-888-272-9829) to charge taxes to American Express, Discover Card or MasterCard accounts. A taxpayer may file a return early and wait until April to phone in a credit card charge. OPC accepts three types of payments this year: taxes owed on a 1999 return; 1999 payments with a request for an automatic extension of time to file; or estimated tax payments for Tax Year 2000.
The IRS Web Site
The IRS Web site is a huge compendium of forms, FAQs, glossaries and interactive question-and-answer pages. The tax information you seek is probably there, but finding that information is a daunting task especially if you start at the front door. We've explored the maze to make your searches a little easier. Here are some good starting points.
You can download forms and get other information for your state taxes.
Here's a collection of gadgets that will help you calculate your return.
Question: "Do I qualify for such and such exemption?"
Wouldn't it be nice if the tax-season headache subsided when you mailed your return? Even when you think you've reported everything and calculated appropriately, there's a chance that there's an error lurking somewhere.
Taxweb has compiled a set of answers to many of the same frequently-asked questions addressed on the IRS Web site. While the IRS FAQ attempts to emulate a drawn out human question and answer session, Taxweb lays out all the conditions and answers in one table. It's up to you to determine which format works best for you.
Make sure to visit our current and archived Post stories and columns for tax advice. That's where you can browse through articles from Washington Post columnists Benny Kass, Jane Bryant Quinn, Albert B. Crenshaw and Michelle Singletary. Also, some tax experts will join us Live Online to discuss various tax-season strategies. For those of you who would like to share your own tips and strategies, we've set up a tax message board.
The IRS wants to stress that they are putting "service first" this year. If you have any questions or comments do not hesitate to call Uncle Sam for advice and info on the TelephoneTax Assistance line at 1-800-829-1040. If you experience problems in getting your refund or have specific questions relating to your refund, call 1-800-808-4262.* If you are deaf or hearing impaired, call 1-800-829-4059 for assistance. All lines are available 24 hours a day.
The IRS has expanded their office hours for walk-in visits at more-convenient locations and times with extra hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays until 6 p.m. and Saturday hours during the filing season. For the location nearest you, contact 1-800-829-1040.
More people are getting information and tax forms from the IRS Web site at www.irs.gov. You can also get a form 24 hours a day from IRS TaxFax at 1-703-368-9694.
The IRS has also reorganized the Problem Resolution Program to make it more efficient. Now known as the Taxpayer Advocate Service, this office has a new toll-free phone line at 1-888-777-4778 to resolve problems not previously resolved through normal IRS channels.
The IRS has also held monthly Problem Solving Days throughout Maryland, Delaware, and Washington, D.C. and will continue to do so. To schedule an appointment, call 1-800-865-6198.
*Editor's note: In an earlier version of this page, the IRS phone number listed to obtain refund assistance was incorrect.
Customer Service Locations and Hours
If you have problems getting through to the IRS on the phone or through the Web, why not pop in for a visit. The IRS maintains several customer service locations where walk-ins are welcome. below is a listing of centers in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. If you live elesewhere in the United States, you can find the nearest location by clicking here.
All of the following offices are open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in addition to the extra hours listed below:
Cumberland - (LaVale)
500 N. Capitol Street, N.W. First Floor
Metro-Plex I, Room 300