Tax Time Guide: Millions make IRS.gov their first stop for tax help
WASHINGTON — Whether on home computers or mobile devices, the number of taxpayer visits to IRS.gov continues to grow year after year. Millions of taxpayers take advantage of the easy-to-use tools available 24 hours a day on the official website − IRS.gov.
The Tax Time Guide is series of news releases designed to help taxpayers get the information they need to file an accurate tax return. Additional help is available in Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax, available on IRS.gov.
Research is easier with tools like the Interactive Tax Assistant (ITA), a tax law resource that works using a series of questions and provides responses. There are also answers for Frequently Asked Questions.
Online account tool
Taxpayers can use the View Your Account tool to see their tax account. Information such as a payoff amount, the balance for each tax year owed, up to 24 months of their payment history and key information from their current tax year return as originally filed.
‘Where’s My Refund?’
Taxpayers can easily find the most up-to-date information about their tax refund using the “Where’s My Refund?” tool on IRS.gov and on the official IRS mobile app, IRS2Go. Within 24 hours after the IRS acknowledges receipt of an e-filed return, or four weeks after a paper return is mailed, taxpayers can start checking on the status of their refund.
Finding free tax return preparation
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offers free tax help to individuals who generally make $56,000 or less, persons with disabilities, the elderly and individuals with limited English proficiency who need assistance in preparing their taxes. The Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program offers free tax help for all taxpayers, particularly those age 60 and older.
Eligible taxpayers can find the nearest community-based site staffed by IRS trained and certified volunteers using the VITA/TCE Site Locator. There, they can get their tax returns prepared and filed electronically without charge.
Free DIY tax preparation
The IRS Free File program, available only through IRS.gov, offers 70% of all taxpayers the choice of 10 brand-name tax preparation software packages to use at no cost. The software does all the work of finding deductions, credits and exemptions for which the taxpayer qualifies. It is free for those who earned $69,000 or less in 2019. Some of the Free File packages also offer free state tax return preparation.
Any taxpayer, regardless of income, who is comfortable preparing their own taxes can use Free File Fillable Forms. This electronic version of paper IRS tax forms is also used to file tax returns online.
Finding a tax professional
The taxpayer is responsible for the accuracy of their tax return and should choose their tax professional carefully. Tax return preparers have differing levels of skills, education and expertise. There is a searchable directory on IRS.gov to help taxpayers find a tax professional in their area. The list can be sorted by credentials and qualifications.
Get a tax return transcript
A Tax Return Transcript shows most line items from an original tax return, along with any forms and schedules, but not changes made after it was filed. The Get Transcript tool is free and available on IRS.gov. Taxpayers can view, print or download their tax transcripts after the IRS has processed the return. The IRS redesigned tax transcripts to partially mask all personally identifiable information for any person or entity on the 1040-series tax return. All financial entries remain fully visible. Ordering a tax transcript will not speed up a taxpayer’s refund or provide an updated refund date.
How to make a tax payment
Taxpayers should visit the “Pay” tab on IRS.gov to see their payment options. Most tax software products give taxpayers various payment options, including the option to withdraw the funds from a bank account. These include:
- IRS Direct Pay offers taxpayers a free, fast, secure and easy way to make an electronic payment from their bank account to the U.S. Treasury.
- Use an approved payment processor to pay by credit, debit card or digital wallet options for a fee. Make monthly or quarterly tax payments using IRS Direct Pay or through the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System.
- Pay by cash at a participating retail store.
Need more time to file?
An extension of time to file a tax return does not grant an extension of time to pay taxes. Taxpayers should estimate and pay any owed taxes by the April 15 deadline to help avoid possible penalties. Taxpayers must file their extension request no later than the regular due date of their return.
Individual tax filers, regardless of income, can use IRS Free File to electronically request an automatic tax-filing extension. This gives the taxpayer until Oct. 15 to file a return. To get the extension, the taxpayer must estimate their tax liability and should also pay any amount due.
Can’t pay a tax bill?
Everyone should file their 2019 tax return by the tax filing deadline regardless of whether or not they can pay in full. Taxpayers who can’t pay all their taxes have options including:
- Online Payment Agreement — Most individual taxpayers and many business taxpayers may qualify to use Online Payment Agreement to set up a payment plan. Available payment plan options include a full-pay agreement, a short-term plan of up to 120 days to pay in full, or a long-term monthly payment plan (installment agreement). The amount a taxpayer owes and their tax- filing compliance determines which payment plan options may be available. Taxpayers can setup a plan on IRS.gov/paymentplan in a matter of minutes. Setup fees may apply for some types of plans.
- Delaying Collection — If the IRS determines a taxpayer is unable to pay, it may delay collection until the taxpayer’s financial condition improves.
- Offer in Compromise (OIC) — Taxpayers who qualify enter into an agreement with the IRS that settles their tax liability for less than the full amount owed.
Face-to-face IRS help
Nearly every tax issue can be resolved online or by phone, but some taxpayers still need face-to-face help from the IRS. All IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TACs) provide service by appointment. To find the closest IRS TAC, enter a five-digit ZIP Code into the TAC Office Locator tool on IRS.gov. To schedule an appointment, call 844-545-5640. Taxpayers need valid photo identification and a taxpayer identification number, such as a Social Security number, to receive services.
Tax Withholding Estimator
The Tax Withholding Estimator is a tool on IRS.gov designed to help taxpayers determine how to have the right amount of tax withheld from their paychecks. The Tax Withholding Estimator will help determine if a taxpayer needs to adjust their withholding and submit a new Form W-4 to their employer. The IRS urges employees to perform a Paycheck Checkup using the Tax Withholding Estimator on IRS.gov. A Paycheck Checkup can help taxpayers see if they’re having their employer withhold the right amount of tax from their paychecks. Even taxpayers who changed their 2019 withholding should recheck their withholding now. A mid-year withholding change in 2019, for example, may have a different full-year impact in 2020. It’s a good idea to check withholding every year. In addition to changes in tax law, life events like marriage, divorce or adopting a child, can have an effect on withholding, too.