Getting Help to File Your Taxes

If you requested an extension to file your 2020 income taxes, the final due date is coming up in just a few weeks, on October 15th. That date sounded a long way off back in April or May when you extended. My, how time flies when you’re having fun…or when you are procrastinating. 

Maybe you were putting off your tax filing because you had questions, or because your situation was more complicated than before. Is it too late to get help to file your taxes? No! Finding a tax preparer isn’t too hard. There are many to choose from. The challenge is finding someone who is knowledgeable, experienced, and dependable. Taxes are personal, so you also want someone with whom you feel comfortable confiding your financial details.

How do you find that elusive experienced and dependable confidant to prepare and file your income tax returns? Well, you can ask friends, hit the Internet, or head to the local tax preparation office. Ideally, you should interview two or three recommended tax preparers to feel confident that she or he is qualified to accurately prepare your income tax return, and that you feel comfortable interacting with her or him.

Use these three interview questions to get help to file your taxes:

  • How Do You Keep Up with Tax Law Changes?

Tax laws are constantly changing. Think about all the recent updates due to COVID-19, on top of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that contained sweeping changes. Your tax preparer should keep up with all those changes, so you don’t have to. A qualified tax person will describe attending conferences, webinars, or other methods to stay current.

  • What Experience and Credentials Do You Have?

Tax preparation is an unregulated industry where anyone can participate, so asking about years of experience, training and education is essential. Preparers with professional credentials, such as a CPA or Enrolled Agent (EA), are required to complete annual continuing education requirements and follow ethical and professional standards. 

  • How Do You Communicate with your Clients?

Does the tax preparer meet regularly with clients? Is she or he available to you if a tax-related question or issue comes up? Make sure you feel comfortable with the tax preparer’s style, manner, and process. If not, keep looking. You’ll be sharing a lot of personal information so you must be comfortable.

It’s not too late to get help to file your 2020 income tax returns. Even if you’re in a rush, make sure you ask the three interview questions necessary to get an experienced and dependable confidant to prepare and file your income tax returns. More tips and tools for getting tax help are on the IRS has a website at https://www.irs.gov/tax-professionals/choosing-a-tax-professional.

Tax Assistance Without the Wait

If you’ve ever called the IRS with a tax question, you know how challenging it can be. A recent report from the Taxpayer Advocate, an independent entity within the IRS, indicates that those challenges are not going to get better any time soon. Tax return processing delays and taxpayer call answer rates have gone from pretty darned bad in the pre-pandemic years to absolutely abominable now. 

For example, at the end of the 2021 tax filing season, the IRS had a backlog of about 35 million tax returns. Pre-pandemic, at the close of the 2019 tax filing season, the IRS had a backlog of 7.4 million returns awaiting manual review. And trying to call the IRS is ridiculous! During the 2021 filing season, only nine percent of the 167 million calls received by the IRS were answered, but only after waiting on hold for an average of 20 minutes.

To help taxpayers get information without the wait, the IRS has updated its website and added features for taxpayers to get answers to general tax questions and to access taxpayer information. These three updates make it quicker and easier to get answers to your tax questions:

  1. The home page of the IRS website, www.irs.gov, has links to most of the information that taxpayers are looking for, from checking the status of your refund to learning about the latest Stimulus Payment. You can easily file your federal taxes for free, access forms and instructions, and find answers to your tax questions.
  1. The entire IRS website is available in multiple languages – Spanish, simplified and traditional Mandarin Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Russian, and Haitian Creole. Just navigate to www.irs.gov and use the drop-down at the top of the screen to adjust to your desired language.
  1. The IRS Online Account is an online portal that allows individual taxpayers to access their tax account information, including tax balances and payment history; set up payment plans for outstanding balances; and get copies of their tax transcripts. Access the portal and initiate your account at IRS.gov/View Your Account Information.

The IRS is working hard to make it easier for taxpayers to get answers to general tax questions, as well as for specific information about their tax balances and payments. Getting information online is common these days, so it makes sense for the IRS to take advantage of the opportunity to shift some of what would be telephone inquiries to the web. 

So, the next time you have a tax question, you don’t have to wait on hold. Just go to www.irs.gov and get your questions answered more quickly than your call would be answered by an IRS representative.