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IRS may not be much help when it comes to tax questions

Tax season is officially in full swing, as most California taxpayers have now received all of the necessary forms to start the process of filing their taxes. For some people this means entering one or two simple forms into a free online program and calling it a day, while others require a bit more effort to make sure they are doing everything correctly.

In the past, the Internal Revenue Service has provided significant resources for people with tax law questions, operating a customer service line and local help centers. This year, however, experts say that those free services will be more limited due to federal budget cuts.

For example, older taxpayers used to have access to special help centers run by the I.R.S. Now, those same individuals will be referred to volunteer organizations such as the A.A.R.P for help instead. Another change is in the availability of the customer service telephone help line, which will now answer only a basic set of questions and will not be available after the April 15 filing deadline, even for those who have received an extension.

What this means more than anything is that taxpayers with complicated questions will need to seek out independent assistance. This will be particularly true for those who may have questions about how to come into compliance on previously unpaid taxes, such as those due on an offshore bank account. These issues are more common than one might realize and are manageable with the help of a knowledgeable advisor.

Source: New York Times, “Need Tax Help? The I.R.S. May Not Be the Best Place to Go,” Ann Carrns, Jan. 31, 2014. 

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