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previous page Previous Page: Publication 970 - Tax Benefits for Education - Illustrated Example
next page Next Page: Publication 970 - Tax Benefits for Education - Glossary
 Use previous pagenext page to find additional occurrences of topic items.Index for this Publication
taxmap/pubs/p970-055.htm#en_us_publink100021203

Chapter 13
How To Get Tax Help(p73)

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You can get help with unresolved tax issues, order free publications and forms, ask tax questions, and get information from the IRS in several ways. By selecting the method that is best for you, you will have quick and easy access to tax help.
taxmap/pubs/p970-055.htm#en_us_publink100021204

Contacting your Taxpayer Advocate.(p73)


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The Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) is an independent organization within the IRS whose employees assist taxpayers who are experiencing economic harm, who are seeking help in resolving tax problems that have not been resolved through normal channels, or who believe that an IRS system or procedure is not working as it should.
You can contact the TAS by calling the TAS toll-free case intake line at 1-877-777-4778 or TTY/TDD 1-800-829-4059 to see if you are eligible for assistance. You can also call or write your local taxpayer advocate, whose phone number and address are listed in your local telephone directory and in Publication 1546, Taxpayer Advocate Service—Your Voice at the IRS. You can file Form 911, Request for Taxpayer Advocate Service Assistance (And Application for Taxpayer Assistance Order), or ask an IRS employee to complete it on your behalf. For more information, go to www.irs.gov/advocate.
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Low Income Taxpayer Clinics (LITCs).(p73)
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LITCs are independent organizations that provide low income taxpayers with representation in federal tax controversies with the IRS for free or for a nominal charge. The clinics also provide tax education and outreach for taxpayers who speak English as a second language. Publication 4134, Low Income Taxpayer Clinic List, provides information on clinics in your area. It is available at www.irs.gov or your local IRS office.
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Free tax services.(p73)


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To find out what services are available, get Publication 910, IRS Guide to Free Tax Services. It contains lists of free tax information sources, including publications, services, and free tax education and assistance programs. It also has an index of over 100 TeleTax topics (recorded tax information) you can listen to on your telephone.
Accessible versions of IRS published products are available on request in a variety of alternative formats for people with disabilities.
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Free help with your return.(p73)


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Free help in preparing your return is available nationwide from IRS-trained volunteers. The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program is designed to help low-income taxpayers and the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program is designed to assist taxpayers age 60 and older with their tax returns. Many VITA sites offer free electronic filing and all volunteers will let you know about credits and deductions you may be entitled to claim. To find the nearest VITA or TCE site, call 1-800-829-1040.
As part of the TCE program, AARP offers the Tax-Aide counseling program. To find the nearest AARP Tax-Aide site, call 1-888-227-7669 or visit AARP's website at 
www.aarp.org/money/taxaide .
For more information on these programs, go to 
www.irs.gov and enter keyword "VITA" in the upper right-hand corner.
EIC
Internet. You can access the IRS website at www.irs.gov 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to:
  • E-file your return. Find out about commercial tax preparation and e-file services available free to eligible taxpayers.
  • Check the status of your 2008 refund. Go to www.irs.gov and click on Where's My Refund. Wait at least 72 hours after the IRS acknowledges receipt of your e-filed return, or 3 to 4 weeks after mailing a paper return. If you filed Form 8379 with your return, wait 14 weeks (11 weeks if you filed electronically). Have your 2008 tax return available so you can provide your social security number, your filing status, and the exact whole dollar amount of your refund.
  • Download forms, instructions, and publications.
  • Order IRS products online.
  • Research your tax questions online.
  • Search publications online by topic or keyword.
  • View Internal Revenue Bulletins (IRBs) published in the last few years.
  • Figure your withholding allowances using the withholding calculator online at www.irs.gov/individuals.
  • Determine if Form 6251 must be filed by using our Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) Assistant.
  • Sign up to receive local and national tax news by email.
  • Get information on starting and operating a small business.
Phone
Phone. Many services are available by phone.  
  • Ordering forms, instructions, and publications. Call 1-800-829-3676 to order current-year forms, instructions, and publications, and prior-year forms and instructions. You should receive your order within 10 days.
  • Asking tax questions. Call the IRS with your tax questions at 1-800-829-1040.
  • Solving problems. You can get face-to-face help solving tax problems every business day in IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers. An employee can explain IRS letters, request adjustments to your account, or help you set up a payment plan. Call your local Taxpayer Assistance Center for an appointment. To find the number, go to www.irs.gov/localcontacts or look in the phone book under United States Government, Internal Revenue Service.
  • TTY/TDD equipment. If you have access to TTY/TDD equipment, call 1-800-829-4059 to ask tax questions or to order forms and publications.
  • TeleTax topics. Call 1-800-829-4477 to listen to pre-recorded messages covering various tax topics.
  • Refund information. To check the status of your 2008 refund, call 1-800-829-1954 during business hours or 1-800-829-4477 (automated refund information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week). Wait at least 72 hours after the IRS acknowledges receipt of your e-filed return, or 3 to 4 weeks after mailing a paper return. If you filed Form 8379 with your return, wait 14 weeks (11 weeks if you filed electronically). Have your 2008 tax return available so you can provide your social security number, your filing status, and the exact whole dollar amount of your refund. Refunds are sent out weekly on Fridays. If you check the status of your refund and are not given the date it will be issued, please wait until the next week before checking back.
  • Other refund information. To check the status of a prior year refund or amended return refund, call 1-800-829-1954.
 
Evaluating the quality of our telephone services. To ensure IRS representatives give accurate, courteous, and professional answers, we use several methods to evaluate the quality of our telephone services. One method is for a second IRS representative to listen in on or record random telephone calls. Another is to ask some callers to complete a short survey at the end of the call.
Walk In
Walk-in. Many products and services are available on a walk-in basis. 
  • Products. You can walk in to many post offices, libraries, and IRS offices to pick up certain forms, instructions, and publications. Some IRS offices, libraries, grocery stores, copy centers, city and county government offices, credit unions, and office supply stores have a collection of products available to print from a CD or photocopy from reproducible proofs. Also, some IRS offices and libraries have the Internal Revenue Code, regulations, Internal Revenue Bulletins, and Cumulative Bulletins available for research purposes.
  • Services. You can walk in to your local Taxpayer Assistance Center every business day for personal, face-to-face tax help. An employee can explain IRS letters, request adjustments to your tax account, or help you set up a payment plan. If you need to resolve a tax problem, have questions about how the tax law applies to your individual tax return, or you are more comfortable talking with someone in person, visit your local Taxpayer Assistance Center where you can spread out your records and talk with an IRS representative face-to-face. No appointment is necessary—just walk in. If you prefer, you can call your local Center and leave a message requesting an appointment to resolve a tax account issue. A representative will call you back within 2 business days to schedule an in-person appointment at your convenience. If you have an ongoing, complex tax account problem or a special need, such as a disability, an appointment can be requested. All other issues will be handled without an appointment. To find the number of your local office, go to  
    www.irs.gov/localcontacts or look in the phone book under United States Government, Internal Revenue Service.
Due date
Mail. You can send your order for forms, instructions, and publications to the address below. You should receive a response within 10 days after your request is received.

 
Internal Revenue Service 
1201 N. Mitsubishi Motorway 
Bloomington, IL 61705-6613


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DVD for tax products. You can order Publication 1796, IRS Tax Products DVD, and obtain:
  • Current-year forms, instructions, and publications.
  • Prior-year forms, instructions, and publications.
  • Tax Map: an electronic research tool and finding aid.
  • Tax law frequently asked questions.
  • Tax Topics from the IRS telephone response system.
  • Internal Revenue Code—Title 26 of the U.S. Code.
  • Fill-in, print, and save features for most tax forms.
  • Internal Revenue Bulletins.
  • Toll-free and email technical support.
  • Two releases during the year. 
    – The first release will ship the beginning of January 2009. 
    – The final release will ship the beginning of March 2009.
Purchase the DVD from National Technical Information Service (NTIS) at www.irs.gov/cdorders for $30 (no handling fee) or call 1-877-233-6767 toll free to buy the DVD for $30 (plus a $6 handling fee). The price is discounted to $25 for orders placed prior to December 1, 2008.
EIC
Small Business Resource Guide 2009. This online guide is a must for every small business owner or any taxpayer about to start a business. This year's guide includes:
  • Helpful information, such as how to prepare a business plan, find financing for your business, and much more.
  • All the business tax forms, instructions, and publications needed to successfully manage a business.
  • Tax law changes for 2009.
  • Tax Map: an electronic research tool and finding aid.
  • Web links to various government agencies, business associations, and IRS organizations.
  • "Rate the Product" survey—your opportunity to suggest changes for future editions.
  • A site map of the guide to help you navigate the pages with ease.
  • An interactive "Teens in Biz" module that gives practical tips for teens about starting their own business, creating a business plan, and filing taxes.
The information is updated during the year. Visit  
www.irs.gov and enter keyword "SBRG" in the upper right-hand corner for more information.
taxmap/pubs/p970-055.htm#en_us_publink100021214

Appendices(p75)


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The following appendices are provided to help you claim the education benefits that will give you the lowest tax.
  1. Appendix A—An Illustrated Example of Education Credits including a filled-in Form 8863 showing how to claim both the Hope credit and lifetime learning credit for 2008.
  2. Appendix B—A chart summarizing some of the major differences between the education tax benefits discussed in this publication. It is intended only as a guide. Look in this publication for more complete information. 
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Appendix A. Illustrated Example of Education Credits(p75)


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Dave and Valerie Jones are married and file a joint tax return. For 2008, they claim exemptions for their two dependent children on their tax return. Their modified adjusted gross income is $99,000. Their tax, before credits, is $11,219. Their son, Sean, will receive his bachelor's degree in psychology from the state college in May 2009. Their daughter, Corey, enrolled full-time at that same college in August 2007 to begin working on her bachelor's degree in physical education. In July 2008, Dave and Valerie paid $2,400 in tuition costs for each child for the Fall 2008 semester. In December 2008, they also paid $2,600 of tuition for each child for the Spring 2009 semester that begins in January.
Dave and Valerie, their children, and the college meet all of the require-ments for the education credits. Because Sean is beyond the second (sophomore) year of his postsec- ondary education, his expenses do not qualify for the Hope credit. But, amounts paid for Sean's expenses in 2009 for academic periods beginning in 2008 and the first 3 months of 2009 qualify for the lifetime learning credit. Corey is in her first 2 (freshman and sophomore) years of postsecondary education and expenses paid for her in 2008, for academic periods beginning in 2008 and January 2009, qualify for the Hope credit.
Dave and Valerie figure their tentative education credits for 2008, $2,760, as shown in the completed Form 8863. They cannot claim the full amount because their modified adjusted gross income is more than $96,000. They carry the amount from line 17 of Form 8863, $2,346, to line 50 of Form 1040, and they attach the Form 8863 to their return.  
 
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Form 8863 for Dave and Valerie Jones Text DescriptionForm 8863 for Dave and Valerie Jones  

Appendix B. Highlights of Education Tax Benefits for Tax Year 2008

This chart highlights some differences among the benefits discussed in this publication. See the text for definitions and details. Do not rely on this chart alone.

Caution: You generally cannot claim more than one benefit for the same education expense.
 Scholarships,
Fellowships,
Grants, and Tuition Reductions
Hope CreditLifetime Learning CreditStudent Loan Interest DeductionTuition and Fees Deduction
What is your
benefit?
Amounts received may not be taxable

Credits can reduce amount of tax you must payCan deduct interest paidCan deduct expenses
What is the annual limit?None$1,800 credit ($3,600 if a student in a Midwestern disaster area) per
student
$2,000 credit ($4,000 if a student in a Midwestern disaster area) per
family



$2,500 deduction$4,000 deduction
What expenses
qualify besides
tuition and required enrollment fees?
Course-related expenses such as fees, books, supplies, and equipmentNone (but see Students in Midwestern disaster areas under Qualified Education Expenses in chapter 2 for an exception) None (but see Students in Midwestern disaster areas under Qualified Education Expenses in chapter 3 for an exception) Books
Supplies
Equipment

Room & board

Transportation

Other necessary expenses















None (but see Students in Midwestern disaster areas under Qualified Education Expenses in chapter 6 for an exception)
What education qualifies?Undergraduate & graduate

K–12
1st 2 years of undergraduate (postsecondary)Undergraduate & graduate

Courses to acquire or improve job skills


Undergraduate & graduateUndergraduate & graduate
What are some of
the other
conditions that
apply?
Must be in degree or vocational program

Payment of tuition and required fees must be allowed under the grant
Can be claimed for only 2 tax years

Must be enrolled at least half-time in degree program

No felony drug conviction(s)

No other conditionsMust have been at least half-time
student in degree program
Cannot claim both deduction & education credit for same student in
same year
In what income
range do benefits
phase out?
No phaseout$48,000 – $58,000

$96,000 – $116,000 for joint returns
$55,000 – $70,000

$115,000 –
$145,000 for
joint returns
$65,000 – $80,000

$130,000 –
$160,000 for
joint returns
(Continued) 

Appendix B. (Continued)

This chart highlights some differences among the benefits discussed in this publication. See the text for definitions and details. Do not rely on this chart alone.

Caution: You generally cannot claim more than one benefit for the same education expense.
 Coverdell ESAQualified Tuition Program (QTP)Education Exception to Additional Tax on Early IRA DistributionsEducation Savings Bond ProgramEmployer-
Provided Educational Assistance
Business Deduction for Work-Related Education
What is your benefit?Earnings not
taxed
Earnings not taxedNo 10%
additional tax on early distribution
Interest not taxedEmployer benefits not taxedCan deduct expenses
What is the annual limit?$2,000 contribution per beneficiaryNoneAmount of qualified
education expenses
Amount of qualified
education expenses
$5,250 exclusionAmount of qualifying work-related education expenses
What expenses qualify besides tuition and required enrollment fees?Books
Supplies
Equipment

Expenses for special needs services

Payments to QTP

Higher education:
 Room & board if
 at least half-time
 student

Elem/sec (K–12) education:
 Tutoring
 Room & board
 Uniforms
 Transportation
 Computer
 access
 Supplementary
 expenses
Books
Supplies
Equipment

Room & board if
at least half-time student

Expenses for special needs services
Books
Supplies
Equipment

Room & board if
at least half-time student

Expenses for special needs services
Payments to Coverdell ESA

Payments to QTP
Books
Supplies
Equipment
Transportation

Travel

Other necessary expenses
What education qualifies?Undergraduate & graduate

K–12
Undergraduate & graduateUndergraduate & graduateUndergraduate & graduateUndergraduate & graduateRequired by employer or law to keep present job, salary, status

Maintain or improve job skills
What are some of the other conditions that apply?Assets must be distributed at age 30 unless special
needs beneficiary
No other conditionsNo other conditionsApplies only to qualified series
EE bonds issued after 1989 or series I bonds
No other conditionsCannot be to
meet minimum educational requirements of present trade/business

Cannot qualify
you for new trade/business
In what income range do benefits phase out?$95,000 – $110,000

$190,000 – $220,000 for
joint returns
No phaseoutNo phaseout$67,100 – $82,100

$100,650 – $130,650 for
joint and qualifying widow(er) returns
No phaseoutMay be subject to limit on itemized deductions
Any nontaxable distribution is limited to the amount that does not exceed qualified education expenses.
previous pagePrevious Page: Publication 970 - Tax Benefits for Education - Illustrated Example
next pageNext Page: Publication 970 - Tax Benefits for Education - Glossary
 Use previous pagenext page to find additional occurrences of topic items.Index for this Publication