Friday, April 9, 2010

Need tax help? Ask the IRS. Really.

People love to hate the IRS. It is a government bureaucracy. It collects taxes. It enforces tax laws. (Congress writes the laws, but that is another topic.) It makes mistakes. What is there to like?

Actually there is a lot to like. The IRS’ mission statement is to, “Provide America's taxpayers top quality service by helping them understand and meet their tax responsibilities and by applying the tax law with integrity and fairness to all.” That is a tough job. According to the IRS:
This mission statement describes our role and the public’s expectation about how we should perform that role.
  • In the United States, the Congress passes tax laws and requires taxpayers to comply.
  • The taxpayer’s role is to understand and meet his or her tax obligations.
  • The IRS role is to help the large majority of compliant taxpayers with the tax law, while ensuring that the minority who are unwilling to comply pay their fair share.
One thing the IRS does very well is provide information, lots of information. Sometimes the information is overwhelming. Sometimes it is contradictory. Sometimes it is late. (In defense of the IRS, it promulgates rules and writes instructions according to laws passed by Congress. That has a lot to do with conflicting rules and with delay. For good examples of this, read up on the AMT and the Estate Tax.)
Another thing the IRS does well is make it easy to get help. You can call, write, e-mail, fax, or even stop by a local office. If that does not get you the help you need, you can even contact the Taxpayer Advocate Service. (If you have ideas about how to make the process better, the IRS even has a way for you to provide feedback and submit ideas for improvement, the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel.)

Here are five ways to get help from the IRS.
  1. Call the IRS: (800) 829-1040
  2. Call the Web Site Help Desk: United States and Canada (800) 876-1715 / International (319) 464-3291
  3. E-mail the Web Site Help Desk:
  4. Check out the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page:  
  5. Stop by your local office or Taxpayer Assistance Center. Click here to find out how to contact your local Center.  
For other help, check out the directory at 

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