The Internal Revenue Service is urging taxpayers to resist the urge to call the agency for answers to tax questions as it anticipates an avalanche of phone calls next week and is instead asking them to go online for help.
The IRS reminded taxpayers Thursday that the Presidents Day holiday period typically marks one of the busiest weeks of the tax-filing season for its phone lines. It noted that there are other alternatives to help taxpayers find answers to commonly asked tax questions.
The IRS opened tax season on January 31 after a two-week delay prompted by the government shutdown last October (see IRS Kicks off Tax Season for Individual Returns). However, it has been struggling with a series of budget cuts in recent years that have delayed response times to phone calls and other matters.
On Tuesday, the IRS’s new commissioner, John Koskinen, released a video on YouTube, in which he also requested taxpayers to use the agency’s Web site and other self-help tools, and warned about long wait times on the phone (see New IRS Commissioner Releases YouTube Tax Season Video).
The IRS reiterated Thursday that it has several easy-to-use, online tools on IRS.gov. Taxpayers can check the status of their refund, request a copy of their tax transcript or get an answer to their tax questions around the clock.
“The entire week of the Presidents Day holiday marks a peak time in the number of calls to the IRS, and we encourage taxpayers to visit IRS.gov as the best place to get quick help,” said Koskinen said in a statement Thursday.
Due to limited resources, the IRS noted that it has changed the services provided at the toll-free telephone number and IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers. To save time and find answers faster, taxpayers should make IRS.gov their first stop, starting with 1040 Central for a quick overview. The IRS Services Guide also provides a list of resources.
The IRS also described a set of frequently asked questions from taxpayers on Presidents Day holiday week and the fastest ways to get answers:
Want to know where your refund is?
More than 90 percent of refunds are issued in less than 21 days. IRS representatives will not provide individual refund information before then. Taxpayers can find information about the status of their refund by using the Where’s My Refund? tool, which is available on IRS.gov and through the IRS2Go mobile app for smartphones.
The Where’s My Refund? tool provides taxpayers with the most up-to-date information available. Taxpayers must have information from their current, pending tax return to access their refund information. Refund information is updated just once a day, generally overnight, so the IRS pointed out that there is no need to check more than once a day.
Didn’t get a W-2?
Employers are required to send to their employees a Form W-2, Statement of Earnings, by January 31. Employees should allow enough time for their form to be mailed to their address of record. If Form W-2 is not received by mid-February, employees should first contact their employer to ensure they have the correct address on file.
After exhausting all options with the employer, employees may contact the IRS and the agency will send a letter to the employer. However, the IRS is urging taxpayers to call after Presidents Day week to avoid long wait times on the phone.
Need a copy of a tax return or transcript?
Taxpayers can order a return or transcript through the Get Transcript tool on the IRS.gov site, through the IRS2Go smartphone app or by mailing a completed Form 4506-T. More information on these options is available at IRS.gov.
Ordering a tax return or tax transcript does not mean a taxpayer will get their refund faster, however, the IRS pointed out, as the two are not connected in any way. IRS transcripts are often used to validate income and tax filing status for mortgage, student and small business loan applications and to help with tax preparation.
Need answers to tax law questions?
For questions about what filing status means, whether to file a tax return or who can be claimed as a dependent, do a keyword search on IRS.gov; use Publication 17, the annual, searchable income tax guide; or the IRS Tax Map, which allows search by topic or keyword for single-point access to tax law information by subject. Taxpayers can also call TeleTax at 1-800-829-4477 for recorded information on a variety of general and business tax topics.
Can’t pay a tax bill?
For taxpayers whose concern isn’t a refund, but rather, a tax bill they can’t pay, the Online Payment Agreement tool can help them determine in a matter of minutes whether they qualify for an installment agreement with the IRS. And those whose tax obligation is even more serious, the Offer in Compromise Pre-Qualifier can help them determine if they qualify for an offer in compromise, an agreement with the IRS that settles their tax liability for less than the full amount owed.