12.   How To Get Tax Help

Do you need help with a tax issue or preparing your tax return, or do you need a free publication or form?

Small Business and Self-Employed (SB/SE) Tax Center.    SB/SE serves taxpayers who file Form 1040, Schedules C, E, F, or Form 2106, as well as small businesses with assets under $10 million.

A-Z Index for Business.    Find it fast! Know what you're looking for and want to find it fast? Select business topics using our A-Z listing, or by business type such as sole proprietor, corporation, etc. We also provide links to major business subjects, such as Business Expenses, which provides a gateway to all related information on that subject.

Preparing and filing your tax return.    Find free options to prepare and file your return on IRS.gov or in your local community if you qualify.
  • Go to IRS.gov and click on the Filing tab to see your options.

  • Enter “Free File” in the search box to use brand name software to prepare and e-file your federal tax return for free.

  • Enter “VITA” in the search box, download the free IRS2Go app, or call toll-free 1-800-906-9887 to find the nearest Volunteer Income Tax Assistance or Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) location for free tax preparation.

  • Enter “TCE” in the search box, download the free IRS2Go app, or call toll-free 1-888-227-7669 to find the nearest Tax Counseling for the Elderly location for free tax preparation.

  • People who are deaf, hard of hearing, or have a speech disability and who have access to TTY/TDD equipment can call toll-free 1-800-829-4059. Deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals can also contact the IRS through relay services such as the Federal Relay Service, available at www.gsa.gov/fedrelay.

  The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offers free tax help to people who generally make $53,000 or less, persons with disabilities, the elderly, and limited-English-speaking taxpayers who need help preparing their own tax returns. The Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program offers free tax help for all taxpayers, particularly those who are 60 years of age and older. TCE volunteers specialize in answering questions about pensions and retirement-related issues unique to seniors.

How to Choose a Tax Return Preparer.   If you choose to have someone prepare your tax return, choose that preparer wisely. A paid tax return preparer is primarily responsible for the overall substantive accuracy of your return and by law, is required to sign the return and include their preparer tax identification number (PTIN) on it. Although the tax return preparer signs the return, you are ultimately responsible for the accuracy of every item reported on your return. Anyone paid to prepare tax returns for others should have a thorough understanding of tax matters and is required to have a PTIN. You may want to ask friends, co-workers, or your employer for help in selecting a competent tax return preparer.

  The following points will assist you when selecting a tax return preparer.
  • Check the preparer’s qualifications. All paid tax preparers are required to have a PTIN.

  • Check the preparer’s history. You can check with the Better Business Bureau to find out if a preparer has a questionable history. Check for disciplinary actions and the license status for credentialed preparers. For CPAs, check with the State Board of Accountancy. For attorneys, check with the State Bar Association. For Enrolled Agents, go to IRS.gov and search for “verify enrolled agent status.

  • Ask about service fees. Avoid preparers who base their fee on a percentage of your refund or those who say they can get larger refunds than others can. Always make sure any refund due is sent to you or deposited into your bank account. You should not have your refund deposited into a preparer’s bank account.

  • Ask to e-file your return. Make sure your preparer offers IRS e-file. Any paid preparer who prepares and files more than 10 returns generally must e-file their clients’ returns. The IRS has safely processed more than 1.3 billion e-filed tax returns.

  • Make sure the preparer is available. You need to ensure that you can contact the tax preparer after you file your return. That’s true even after the April 15 due date. You may need to contact the preparer if questions come up about your tax return at a later time.

  • Provide tax records. A good preparer will ask to see your records and receipts. They ask you questions to report your total income and the tax benefits you’re entitled to claim. These may include tax deductions, tax credits, and other items. Do not use a preparer who is willing to e-file your return using your last pay stub instead of your Form W-2. This is against IRS e-file rules.

  • Never sign a blank tax return. Do not use a tax preparer who asks you to sign a blank tax form.

  • Review your return before signing. Before you sign your tax return, review it thoroughly. Ask questions if something is not clear to you. Make sure you’re comfortable with the information on the return before you sign it.

  • Preparer must sign and include their PTIN. Paid preparers must sign returns and include their PTIN as required by law. The preparer must also give you a copy of the return.

  • Report abusive tax preparers to the IRS. You can report abusive tax preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS. Use Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer. If you suspect a return preparer filed or changed the return without your consent, you should also file Form 14157-A, Return Preparer Fraud or Misconduct Affidavit. You can download and print these forms on IRS.gov. If you need a paper form by mail go to www.irs.gov/orderforms to order online. You can also call toll-free 1-800-TAX-FORM (1-800-829–3676) or 1-800-829-4059 for TTY/TDD to place an order.

  Choose a tax return preparer you will be able to contact in case the IRS examines your return and has questions regarding how your return was prepared. You can designate your paid tax return preparer or another third party to speak to the IRS concerning the preparation of your return, payment/refund issues, and mathematical errors. The third party authorization checkbox on Form 1040, Form 1040A, and Form 1040EZ gives the designated party the authority to receive and inspect returns and return information for one year from the original due date of your return (without regard to extensions). You can extend the authority to receive and inspect returns and return information to a third party using Form 8821, Tax Information Authorization.

Getting answers to your tax law questions.    IRS.gov and IRS2Go are ready when you are—24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Enter “ITA” in the search box on IRS.gov for the Interactive Tax Assistant, a tool that will ask you questions on a number of tax law topics and provide answers. You can print the entire interview and the final response.

  • Enter “Tax Map” or “Tax Trails” in the search box for detailed information by tax topic.

  • Enter “Pub 17” in the search box to get Pub. 17, Your Federal Income Tax for Individuals, which features details on tax-saving opportunities, 2014 tax changes, and thousands of interactive links to help you find answers to your questions.

  • Call TeleTax toll free at 1-800-829-4477 for recorded information on a variety of tax topics.

  • Access tax law information in your electronic filing software.

  • Go to IRS.gov and click on the Help & Resources tab for more information.

Tax forms and publications.    You can download or print all of the forms and publications you may need on www.irs.gov/formspubs. Otherwise, you can:
  • Go to www.irs.gov/orderforms to place an order and have forms mailed to you; or

  • Call 1-800-TAX-FORM (1-800-829-3676) or 1-800-829-4059 toll free for TTY/TDD to order current-year forms, instructions, publications, and prior-year forms and instructions (limited to 5 years).

You should receive your order within 10 business days.

Getting a transcript or copy of a return.   
  • Go to IRS.gov and click on “Get Transcript of Your Tax Records” under “Tools.

  • Download the free IRS2Go app to your smart phone and use it to order transcripts of your tax returns or tax account.

  • Call the transcript toll-free line at 1-800-908-9946.

  • Mail Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return, or Form 4506T-EZ, Short Form Request for Individual Tax Return Transcript (both available on IRS.gov).

Using online tools to help prepare your return.    Go to IRS.gov and click on the Tools bar to use these and other self-service options.

Where to file your tax return.   
  • There are many ways to file your return electronically. It’s safe, quick, and easy. See Preparing and filing your tax return, earlier, for more information.

  • See your tax return instructions to determine where to mail your completed paper tax return.

Understanding identity (ID) theft issues.   

Recognizing and reporting tax scams.   The Dirty Dozen is compiled annually by the IRS and lists a variety of common scams taxpayers may encounter any time during the year. Many of these con games peak during filing season as people prepare their tax returns or hire someone to do so. Aggressive and threatening phone calls by criminals impersonating IRS agents remain near the top of the annual Dirty Dozen list of tax scams for the 2015 filing season.

  Scammers are able to alter caller identification (caller ID) numbers to make it look like the IRS is calling. They use fake names and bogus IRS badge numbers. They often leave “urgent” callback requests. They prey on the most vulnerable people, such as the elderly, newly arrived immigrants, and those whose first language is not English. Scammers have been known to impersonate agents from IRS Criminal Investigation as well.

  These callers may demand money or may say you have a refund due and try to trick you into sharing private information. These con artists can sound convincing when they call. They may know a lot about you.

  Here are five things the scammers often do but the IRS will not do. Any one of these five things is a tell-tale sign of a scam.

   The IRS will never do any of the following.
  • Call to demand immediate payment, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.

  • Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.

  • Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.

  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

  • Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.

  If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money, here’s what you should do.
  • If you know you owe taxes or think you might owe, call the IRS toll free at 1-800-829-1040. The IRS assistors can help you with a payment issue.

  • If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to believe that you do, report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) toll free at 1-800-366-4484 or at www.tigta.gov.

  • If you’ve been targeted by this scam, also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their FTC Complaint Assistant at FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your complaint

  Remember, too, the IRS does not use email, text messages, or any social media to discuss your personal tax issue involving bills or refunds. For more information on reporting tax scams, go to www.irs.gov and type “scam” in the search box.

  Additional information about tax scams is available on IRS social media sites, including YouTube, http://www.youtube.com/irsvideos, and Tumblr, http://internalrevenueservice.tumblr.com, where people can search “scam” to find all the scam-related posts.

Checking on the status of a refund.   
  • Go to www.irs.gov/refunds.

  • Download the free IRS2Go app to your smart phone and use it to check your refund status.

  • Call the automated refund hotline toll free at 1-800-829-1954.

Making a tax payment.   You can make electronic payments online, by phone, or from a mobile device. Paying electronically is safe and secure. The IRS uses the latest encryption technology and does not store banking information. It’s easy and secure and much quicker than mailing in a check or money order. Go to IRS.gov and click on the Payments tab or the “Pay Your Tax Bill” icon to make a payment using the following options.
  • Direct Pay (only if you are an individual who has a checking or savings account).

  • Debit or credit card.

  • Electronic Federal Tax Payment System.

  • Check or money order.

What if I can’t pay now?    Click on the Payments tab or the “Pay Your Tax Bill” icon on IRS.gov to find more information about these additional options.
  • An online payment agreement determines if you are eligible to apply for an installment agreement if you cannot pay your taxes in full today. With the needed information, you can complete the application in about 30 minutes, and get immediate approval.

  • An offer in compromise (OIC) allows you to settle your tax debt for less than the full amount you owe. Use the Offer in Compromise Pre-Qualifier to confirm your eligibility.

Checking the status of an amended return.    Go to IRS.gov and click on the Tools tab and then Where’s My Amended Return? to check the status of your amended return.

Filing Past Due Tax Returns.   File all tax returns that are due, regardless of whether or not you can pay in full. File your past due return the same way and to the same location where you would file an on-time return. If you have received a notice, make sure to send your past due return to the location indicated on the notice you received. If you have a past due return, filing your past due return now can help you do the following.
  • Avoid interest and penalties. File your past due return and pay now to limit interest charges and late payment penalties.

  • Claim a refund. You risk losing your refund if you don't file your return. If you are due a refund for withholding or estimated taxes, you must file your return to claim it within 3 years of the return due date. The same rule applies to a right to claim tax credits such as the Earned Income Credit. We hold income tax refunds in cases where our records show that one or more income tax returns are past due. We hold them until we get the past due return or receive an acceptable reason for not filing a past due return.

  • Protect social security benefits. If you are self-employed and do not file your federal income tax return, any self-employment income you earned will not be reported to the Social Security Administration and you will not receive credits toward social security retirement or disability benefits.

  • Avoid issues obtaining loans. Loan approvals may be delayed if you don't file your return. Copies of filed tax returns must be submitted to financial institutions, mortgage lenders/brokers, etc., whenever you want to buy or refinance a home, get a loan for a business, or apply for federal aid for higher education.

Substitute return.   If you fail to file voluntarily, we may file a substitute return for you, based on income reported to the IRS. This return might not give you credit for deductions and exemptions you may be entitled to receive. We will send you a Notice of Deficiency CP3219N (90-day letter) proposing a tax assessment. You will have 90 days to file your past due tax return or file a petition in Tax Court. If you do neither, we will proceed with our proposed assessment. If you have received a Notice of Deficiency CP3219N, you can not request an extension to file.

  If any of the income listed is incorrect, you may do the following.
  • Contact us toll free at 1-866-681-4271 to let us know.

  • Contact the payer (source) of the income to request a corrected Form W-2 or 1099.

  • Attach the corrected forms when you send us your completed tax returns.

  If the IRS files a substitute return, it is still in your best interest to file your own tax return to take advantage of any exemptions, credits, and deductions you are entitled to receive. The IRS will generally adjust your account to reflect the correct figures. If you filed a past due return and have received a notice, you should send us a copy of the past due return to the indicated address. It takes approximately 6 weeks for us to process an accurately completed past due tax return

Understanding an IRS notice or letter.    Enter “Understanding your notice” in the search box on IRS.gov to find additional information about your IRS notice or letter.

Collection and enforcement actions.   The return we prepare for you (our proposed assessment) will lead to a tax bill, which, if unpaid, will trigger the collection process. This can include such actions as a levy on your wages or bank account or the filing of a notice of federal tax lien. If you repeatedly do not file, you could be subject to additional enforcement measures, such as additional penalties and/or criminal prosecution.

Visiting the IRS.    Locate the nearest Taxpayer Assistance Center (TAC) using the Office Locator tool on IRS.gov. Enter “office locator” in the search box. Or choose the “Contact Us” option on the IRS2Go app and search Local Offices. Before you visit, use the Locator tool to check hours and services available.

Watching IRS videos.    The IRS Video Portal, www.irsvideos.gov, contains video and audio presentations on topics of interest to individuals, small businesses, and tax professionals. You’ll find video clips of tax topics, archived versions of live panel discussions and webinars, and audio archives of tax practitioner phone forums.

Getting tax information in other languages.    For taxpayers whose native language is not English, we have the following resources available.
  1. Taxpayers can find information on IRS.gov in the following languages.

  2. The IRS TACs provide over-the-phone interpreter service in over 170 languages, and the service is available free to taxpayers.

The Taxpayer Advocate Service Is Here To Help You

What is the Taxpayer Advocate Service?

The Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) is an independent organization within the Internal Revenue Service that helps taxpayers and protects taxpayer rights. Our job is to ensure that every taxpayer is treated fairly and that you know and understand your rights under the Taxpayer Bill of Rights.

What Can the TAS Do For You?

We can help you resolve problems that you can’t resolve with the IRS. And our service is free. If you qualify for our assistance, you will be assigned to one advocate who will work with you throughout the process and will do everything possible to resolve your issue. The TAS can help you if:

  • Your problem is causing financial difficulty for you, your family, or your business;

  • You face (or your business is facing) an immediate threat of adverse action; or

  • You’ve tried repeatedly to contact the IRS but no one has responded, or the IRS hasn’t responded by the date promised.

How Can You Reach Us?

We have offices in every state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Your local advocate’s number is in your local directory and at www.taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov. You can also call us toll free at 1-877-777-4778.

How Can You Learn About Your Taxpayer Rights?

The Taxpayer Bill of Rights describes ten basic rights that all taxpayers have when dealing with the IRS. Our Tax Toolkit at www.taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov can help you understand what these rights mean to you and how they apply. These are your rights. Know them. Use them.

How Else Does the TAS Help Taxpayers?

The TAS works to resolve large-scale problems that affect many taxpayers. If you know of one of these broad issues, please report it to us at www.irs.gov/sams.

Low Income Taxpayer Clinics

Low Income Taxpayer Clinics (LITCs) serve individuals whose income is below a certain level and need to resolve tax problems such as audits, appeals, and tax collection disputes. Some LITCs can provide information about taxpayer rights and responsibilities in different languages for individuals who speak English as a second language. To find an LITC near you, visit www.irs.gov/litc or see IRS Publication 4134, Low Income Taxpayer Clinic List.


More Online Publications