Brace Yourself for a Different Kind of IRS Experience

If you've historically relied upon assistance from the IRS in preparing your returns – even to answer a few questions – you may need to find a new lifeline this year. Following severe budget cuts and extensive new responsibilities, the IRS will be forced to scale back on services ordinarily provided to taxpayers. In fact, many Americans won't be able to receive assistance from the IRS at all.

An estimated 10% has been cut from the IRS budget since 2010, leaving the agency ill-equipped to continue the previous level of taxpayer support. Depending on your needs this tax season, you may have to think ahead in determining how you'll file. There a few key things to understand about IRS shortcomings and what that means for you. Brace yourself for what promises to be an all-around difficult year for both the Internal Revenue Service and for you, the wayward taxpayer.

Prepare to Wait

While the average hold time with the IRS used to be a couple of minutes, you can expect to wait upwards of 30 minutes to speak to an agent this year. Also, phone calls will only be answered through April 15. With fewer representatives to answer the phone, you should call as early in the season as possible to avoid extended waits…or possibly not getting assistance, period.

You May Not Get Through

The IRS has warned taxpayers this season that not everyone who calls will actually get someone on the phone. If you call with a question, you may be included in the percentage of Americans who will not get through this year. You can try to dial in later, but there are no promises you'll get to talk to an agent.

Only Basic Questions Will be Answered

If you do get through over the phone, you're encouraged to limit your IRS conversation to basic questions. Complicated inquiries about the tax code or intricate tax return issues will not be addressed. So, if you're lucky enough to get someone on the line, keep it simple and brief.

Don't Ask for Help Filing

In addition to closing a series of Taxpayer Assistance Centers throughout the country, the IRS will not be assisting with return preparation this year. Should you require assistance in preparing your return, you have options, but not with the IRS.

Alternative Solutions

If you need help with your tax return, you're certainly not alone. Even basic tax preparation can quickly become complicated, and the inclusion of health care reporting this year only makes it trickier. If you're concerned about making a mistake on your return, or even if you just have questions about how to file, you should consult a licensed tax professional.

Getting professional assistance can also be to your benefit when it comes to maximizing your refund; you could be eligible for deductions or credits you haven't thought of. As you move towards April 15th, consider your tax return options and decide on a plan that works best for you. With all of the IRS' limitations this tax season, a licensed tax professional can prevent you from drowning in a sea of paperwork and regret.

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