With most tax documents having been received, the IRS says this weekend will be the high water mark for filers to prepare their returns.
Michael Devine is with the agency’s St. Louis office. He says the best option is to prepare taxes on a computer using an agency approved free software program.
“Free file is a program where the IRS partners with 12 different tax software companies” said Devine. “And you can pick one of those 12 companies, and they will let you do your tax return for free if you made less than $64,000.”
Free software programs are available at irs.gov. Devine offers a personal experience to stress the difference between preparing taxes manually and through a software program.
“I actually live in Illinois and I work in Missouri, so I get to do my federal return and two state tax returns. I once did them all by hand just to see how hard it was. After that, I promised myself I would never try to do a tax return without using a computer again.”
Devine says many of the programs will also do state taxes without requiring filers to resubmit their information. The returns are then e-filed through a secure system with refunds normally being distributed within 21 days. The chance of making a mistake using a software program is less than one percent, according to Devine.
There are still perks for those who file manually, however. There are volunteers in most areas which offer free in-person assistance for seniors and people making less than $54,000.
IRS brick-and-mortar locations will not be open over the busy preparation weekend. The agency’s also discontinued walk-in service. The IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers now provides face-to-face service only by appointment.
However, the agency’s toll-free phone service has expanded its hours of operation to accommodate the volume tax preparations being made over the weekend. Callers can dial 1-800-829-1040 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. CST Saturday and 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. CST durng the Presidents Day holiday Monday.
Another condition tax filers need to be aware is the beefed up security requirements the IRS has put in place because of a spike in tax fraud in recent years. Devine says filers will have to provide more information to verify their identity.
“It can be challenging sometimes to have to answer all those questions” said Devine. “But we’re trying to protect your tax information, protect your money, and stop fraudulent refunds”
Filers will need to know their “adjusted gross income” to prepare their taxes. That figure can be accessed from last year’s return. Filers can also order a transcript of past tax returns if needed.