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taxmap/pubs/p970-063.htm#en_us_publink1000178742

Chapter 14
How To Get Tax Help(p86)

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previous topic occurrence How To Get Tax Help next topic occurrence

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.
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Contacting your Taxpayer Advocate.(p86)


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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. Here are seven things every taxpayer should know about TAS:
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Low Income Taxpayer Clinics (LITCs).(p86)
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The Low Income Taxpayer Clinic program serves individuals who have a problem with the IRS and whose income is below a certain level. LITCs are independent from the IRS. Most LITCs can provide representation before the IRS or in court on audits, tax collection disputes, and other issues for free or a small fee. If an individual's native language is not English, some clinics can provide multilingual information about taxpayer rights and responsibilities. For more information, see Publication 4134, Low Income Taxpayer Clinic List. This publication is available at www.irs.gov, by calling 1-800-TAX-FORM (1-800-829-3676), or at your local IRS office.
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Free tax services.(p86)


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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.(p86)


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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 2009 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 2009 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.
  • Use the online Internal Revenue Code, Regulations, or other official guidance.
  • 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-TAX FORM (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 2009 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 2009 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 2010. 
    – The final release will ship the beginning of March 2010.
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).
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Appendices(p88)


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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 American opportunity credit and lifetime learning credit for 2009.
  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(p88)


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Dave and Valerie Jones are married and file a joint tax return. For 2009, they claim exemptions for their two dependent children on their tax return. Their modified adjusted gross income is $103,000. Their tax, before credits, is $11,631. Their son, Sean, began graduate school (fifth year of college) in September 2009 and will receive his master's degree in psychology from the state college in May 2010. Their daughter, Corey, enrolled full-time at that same college in August 2008 to begin working on her bachelor's degree in physical education. In July 2009, Dave and Valerie paid $2,400 in tuition costs for each child for the fall 2009 semester. In December 2009, they also paid $2,600 of tuition for each child for the spring 2010 semester that begins in January.
Dave and Valerie, their children, and the college meet all of the requirements for the education credits. Because neither child attends school in a Midwestern disaster area, they do not claim a Hope credit. Because Sean is beyond the fourth (senior) year of his postsecondary education, his expenses do not qualify for the American opportunity credit. However, amounts paid for Sean's expenses in 2009 for academic periods beginning in 2009 and January 2010 do qualify for the lifetime learning credit. Corey is in her first 4 years (freshman through senior) of postsecondary education and expenses paid for her in 2009, for academic periods beginning in 2009 and January 2010, qualify for the American opportunity credit.
Dave and Valerie figure their refundable American opportunity credit, $1,000, as shown in Part IV of the completed Form 8863. They carry the amount from line 16 of Form 8863 to line 66 of Form 1040. Dave and Valerie figure their tentative lifetime learning credit for 2009, $1,000 (line 8c). They cannot claim the full amount because their MAGI is more than $100,000. The reduced amount ($850 on line 24) is added to their nonrefundable American opportunity credit ($1,500 on line 17) for a total nonrefundable credit of $2,350. They carry that amount (line 29) to line 49 of Form 1040 and attach the completed Form 8863 to their return.  
 
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Form 8863 for Dave and Valerie Jones Text DescriptionForm 8863 for Dave and Valerie Jones  
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Filled-in Form 8863 Jones page 2 Text DescriptionFilled-in Form 8863 Jones page 2  

Appendix B. Highlights of Education Tax Benefits for Tax Year 2009

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
American Opportunity CreditHope CreditLifetime Learning CreditStudent Loan Interest DeductionTuition and Fees Deduction
What is your
benefit?
Amounts received may not be taxable

40% of credit may be refundable
(limited to $1,000)
Credits can reduce amount of tax you must payCan deduct interest paidCan deduct expenses
What is the annual limit?None$2,500$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 tax return$2,500 deduction$4,000 deduction
What expenses
qualify besides
tuition and required enrollment fees?
Course-related expenses such as fees, books, supplies, and equipmentCourse-related books, supplies, and equipmentNone (but seeStudents in Midwestern disaster areas under Qualified Education Expenses in chapter 3 for an exception)None (but see Students in Midwestern disaster areas under Qualified Education Expenses in chapter 4 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 7 for an exception)
What education qualifies?Undergraduate & graduate

K–12
1st 4 years of undergraduate (postsecondary)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 4 tax years (which includes years Hope credit claimed)

Must be enrolled at least half-time in degree program

No felony drug conviction(s)

Cannot claim Hope credit on same return
Can be claimed for only 2 tax years

Must be enrolled at least half-time in degree program

Must claim the credit for at least one eligible Midwestern disaster area student

No felony drug conviction(s)

Cannot claim American opportunity credit on same return
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$80,000 – $90,000

$160,000 – $180,000 for joint returns
$50,000 – $60,000

$100,000 – $120,000 for joint returns
$60,000 – $75,000

$120,000 –
$150,000 for
joint returns
$65,000 – $80,000

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

Appendix B. Highlights of Education Tax Benefits for Tax Year 2009 (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 ESA Qualified Tuition Program (QTP) Education Exception to Additional Tax on Early IRA Distributions Education Savings Bond Program Employer-
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

Computer technology, equipment, and Internet access
(2009 and 2010)
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$69,950 – $84,950

$104,900 – $134,900 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.