IRS TAXPAYER SERVICES IN THE DISTRICT (TABLE) LOCATION(COLUMN)HOURS(COLUMN)SPECIAL HOURS 1201 E Street N.W.(COLUMN)8:30 a.m.-4:45 p.m.(COLUMN)8:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Room 703(COLUMN)Monday-Friday(COLUMN)April 16 IRS TELEPHONE NUMBERS(COLUMN)8:30 a.m.-4:45 p.m.(COLUMN)8:30 a.m.-7 p.m. (Information, forms)(COLUMN)Monday-Friday(COLUMN)April 16 488-3100 TV Phone/Teletypewriter (TTY)(COLUMN)8:30 a.m.-4:45 p.m.(COLUMN)8:30 a.m.-7 p.m.. (800) 428-4732(COLUMN)Monday-Friday(COLUMN)April 16(END TABLE)
The tax filing deadline is drawing ever nearer, and the Internal Revenue Service is trying to ease taxpayers' burdens by providing simpler instructions and forms, a variety of free booklets and taxpayer assistance by telephone and at local IRS offices.
In addition, the agency has cooperated with community groups to set up free tax clinics for elderly and low-income citizens. Some of these clinics will send volunteers out to help shut-ins with their tax forms, and others are set up to help Chinese and Spanish-speaking citizens.
Because April 15 falls on Sunday this year, the filing deadline is April 16.
Taxpayers who haven't looked at the forms and instructions yet this year may be pleasantly surprised when they do: Plain English is actually replacing the gobbledygook that used to prevail in most tax material.
One thing the instructions point out is that if you qualify, the IRS will figure your taxes for you. If you file on the 1040A short form -- as about half the taxpayers do -- you automatically qualify to have the IRS figure the taxes. You need only fill in the part of the form up to line 11a that applies to you, sign the form, attach your W-2 and mail it in. Send it to the IRS Center, Philadelphia, Pa. 19255. The IRS will work out your tax; if you owe anything, it will bill you and give you 30 days to pay, and if you are due a refund, it will mail you a check.
If you're not sure whether you can use the 1040A form, check the instructions that came with your tax forms.
Some commercial preparers charge more than $10 to fill in the form, which involves little more than providing your name, Social Security number and earnings, and figuring your taxes, which the IRS will do free. And if you're eligible for the earned income credit for certain low-wage earners, which the IRS also will figure for you, the preparers will charg more.
Even if you file on the 1040 form, you may be eligible to have the IRS figure your taxes; check page 4 of the instruction book that came with your tax forms.
IRS Forms and Offices
If the instruction book does not answer all your questions, you can call the local IRS taxpayer service number, 488-3100. The toll-free number for deaf taxpayers who have access to a TV phone/teletypewriter (TTY) is 800-428-4732.
Telephone help is available on weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. The IRS phone service is very much in demand these days, so expect to be put on hold. If possible, try calling before 9 in the morning or after 3:30 in the afternoon on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday; the lines often are less tied up at these hours.
If you decide to go into an IRS office for help, again you should consider going late in the week when the offices are less crowded. At any time, there will probably be a wait -- and if your return is complicated, you should expect to spend an hour or more with the IRS assistant. Be sure to take with you all the material and records you need, including your Social Security number, the number of your dependents and your earnings and expense records.
A "taxpayer service representative" will answer your questions and give you any forms you need.If you can't fill out the form yourself, he or she will fill it out for you. Remember, though, that you are responsible for the information on the form; even if the IRS makes a mistake you will be liable for any extra tax due. If the mistake is in he math and if you pay the tax promptly, in some cases you may not be required to pay interest on the additional tax.
The IRS office is at 1201 E St. NW, Room 703.
Neighborhood Tax Clinics
Free tax clinics for elderly and low-income citizens are being operated in several areas, sometimes with special services for shut-ins and for non-English-speaking taxpayers.
Volunteers who staff the VITA (Voluntary Income Tax Assistance) clinics have been trained by the IRS and are especially aware of special credits that elderly taxpayers and low-wage earners are entitled to. Many of the volunteers are retirees themselves; they also may be able to help with District tax forms.
If you do not have to file a return -- if, say, all of your income is from Social Security -- you may want to file a District return anyway, to take advantage of certain credits. One woman recently took her Social Security and rent payment receipts to a tax clinic in her neighborhood and was shown by a volunteer how she qualified for the D.C. property tax credit. The volunteer helped the woman fill out a tax form, and she will soon get $265 in the mail.
Again, you should keep in mind that you are responsible for your own tax forms. The clinics may be as crowded as the IRS offices, so expect to spend some time there.
Free IRS Booklets
If you have a special tax problem, it's liekly that the IRS has a special booklet thatcovers it. The agency's general guide, "Your Federal Income Tax," is as good as the $3 or $4 guides on sale in bookstores, and is free. It includes information on most special tax problems, tax tables and sample filled-in forms. The language is clear and straightforward, whereas the language in the commercial guides often copies verbatim the language in the tax code. And if you ever doubted that the IRS has improved its forms and instructions, look at the confusing language in parts of the tax code.
One commerical guide, "The Internal Revenue Guide to Your Federal Income Tax," put out by Arco Publishing Co., is an exact reprint of the free IRS guide. The Arco book sells for $1.50.
To get a copy of the IRS book, go into an IRS office or call 488-3100. It will take several days to arrive by mail, so give yourself plenty of time.
In addition to the general guide, the IRS produces nearly a hundred booklets for covering specific tax areas. Some of the moer useful publications cover audits and appeal rights (Publication No. 556) and the collection process (586A), both available in English and Spanish. All publications are available free from IRS offices or by mail.
Extensions of the filing deadline are granted under some circumstances. If you feel you need an extension and believe you qualify for one, call the IRS for more information.
If you are due a refund, you should receive it within four to six weeks after it within four to six weeks after you file. If you haven't gotten it within 45 days of the day you file, or by June 1, whichever is later, the IRS must pay interest on the amount it owes you.
If you receive a refund that is less than you expected, wait two weeks; the IRS should send you a letter explaining the discrepancy. If yo do not receive the letter or if you do not receive your refund at all, take the following steps:
1. Call 488-3100. Keep a record of the date and the name of the employe you take to and keep copies of any material the IRS asks you to send in. Explain your problem and tell the employe your name, Social Security number, telephone number and the date you mailed your return. If the employe does not have this information, nothing is likely to be done about your problem.
If your problem is not solved at this level, take the next step:
2. Call 488-3100 and ask to speak to Harry Rubin, the problem resoultion officer, at extension 2481. His job is to help taxpayers who have tried but failed to get help through normal channels. If after five days you still have not received a satisfactory response, take the third step.
3. Write to the district director, the top IRS official in your area. Explain your problem and each step you took to solve it. Write to Gerald Portney, IRS District Director, 31 Hopkins Plaza, Baltimore, Md. 21201.
Anne G. Witte is editor of "People and Taxes," published by Public Citizen's Tax Reform Research Group, a Ralph Nader organization .