Where to turn for tax help
Tax returns surge over Presidents Day weekend, with the IRS saying it receives more phone calls on the day after Presidents Day than on any other day of the year. That can mean long waits for filers trying to get through on the phone.
So where should you turn if you have a question?
Getting someone on the phone might be a challenge, but the IRS.gov website has answers to most tax questions. The site can also direct you to outside tax help, such as the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. The program provides free tax help to people with incomes under $54,000, those with disabilities and those who require in-person assistance because of language issues. There's also the Tax Counseling for the Elderly program, which provides free help to all taxpayers, specializing in those 60 years or older.
Taxpayers whose income is $66,000 or less can use IRS Free File, also accessible on the main site, to access free tax-preparation software.
Filing online is the most accurate, safest and easiest way to file, according to the IRS.
There are numerous free and paid tax software programs that will walk you through common tax scenarios. Some brands, such as TurboTax, offer add-on perks for help.
TurboTax Live, for example, allows you to ask for immediate help from an expert online and you can even get your tax return reviewed, signed and filed by an experience certified public accountant or enrolled agent.
If you decided you want to call in a pro, make sure you choose wisely.
While the majority of tax professionals provide honest, quality service, the IRS warns of dishonest preparers who set up shop to commit refund fraud, identity fraud and other scams. There are a number of tips on the IRS website on how to choose a tax return preparer wisely. But one easy place to start is to make sure they have an IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number, known as a PTIN, which is required by law. In general avoid preparers who boast about getting you the biggest return, aren't available for questions or want to be paid based on a percentage of your return.
Remember that no matter who prepares a federal tax return, by signing it the taxpayer becomes legally responsible for is accuracy.