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Publication 970
taxmap/pubs/p970-055.htm#en_us_publink1000178742

Chapter 13
How To Get Tax Help(p74)

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_publink1000268156

Free help with your return.(p74)

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Free help in preparing your return is available nationwide from IRS-certified volunteers. The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program is designed to help low-moderate income taxpayers and the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program is designed to assist taxpayers age 60 and older with their tax returns. Most VITA and TCE 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, visit IRS.gov or call 1-800-906-9887 or 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 IRS.gov and enter keyword "VITA" in the upper right-hand corner.
EIC
Internet. You can access the IRS website at IRS.gov 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to:
  • Check the status of your 2011 refund. Go to 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 2011 tax return available so you can provide your social security number, your filing status, and the exact whole dollar amount of your refund.
  • E-file your return. Find out about commercial tax preparation and e-file services available free to eligible taxpayers.
  • Download forms, including talking tax 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 available online at www.irs.gov/individuals.
  • 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 2011 refund, call 1-800-829-1954 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 2011 tax return available so you can provide your social security number, your filing status, and the exact whole dollar amount of your refund. 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 1-800-829-1040.
 ____ 
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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Taxpayer Advocate Service.(p75)

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The Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) is your voice at the IRS. Our job is to ensure that every taxpayer is treated fairly, and that you know and understand your rights. We offer free help to guide you through the often-confusing process of resolving tax problems that you haven’t been able to solve on your own. Remember, the worst thing you can do is nothing at all.
TAS can help if you can’t resolve your problem with the IRS and:
If you qualify for our help, we’ll do everything we can to get your problem resolved. You will be assigned to one advocate who will be with you at every turn. We have offices in every state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Although TAS is independent within the IRS, our advocates know how to work with the IRS to get your problems resolved. And our services are always free.
As a taxpayer, you have rights that the IRS must abide by in its dealings with you. Our tax toolkit at www.TaxpayerAdvocate.irs.gov can help you understand these rights.
If you think TAS might be able to help you, call your local advocate, whose number is in your phone book and on our website at www.irs.gov/advocate. You can also call our toll-free number at 1-877-777-4778 or TTY/TDD 1-800-829-4059.
TAS also handles large-scale or systemic problems that affect many taxpayers. If you know of one of these broad issues, please report it to us through our Systemic Advocacy Management System at www.irs.gov/advocate.
taxmap/pubs/p970-055.htm#en_us_publink1000268162
Low Income Taxpayer Clinics (LITCs).(p75)
Low Income Taxpayer Clinics (LITCs) are independent from the IRS. Some clinics serve individuals whose income is below a certain level and who need to resolve a tax problem. These clinics provide professional representation before the IRS or in court on audits, appeals, tax collection disputes, and other issues for free or for a small fee. Some clinics can provide information about taxpayer rights and responsibilities in many different languages for individuals who speak English as a second language. For more information and to find a clinic near you, see the LITC page on www.irs.gov/advocate or IRS Publication 4134, Low Income Taxpayer Clinic List. This publication is also available by calling 1-800-829-3676 or at your local IRS office.
taxmap/pubs/p970-055.htm#en_us_publink1000268163

Free tax services.(p75)

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Publication 910, IRS Guide to Free Tax Services, is your guide to IRS services and resources. Learn about free tax information from the IRS, including publications, services, and education and assistance programs. The publication also has an index of over 100 TeleTax topics (recorded tax information) you can listen to on the telephone. The majority of the information and services listed in this publication are available to you free of charge. If there is a fee associated with a resource or service, it is listed in the publication.
Accessible versions of IRS published products are available on request in a variety of alternative formats for people with disabilities.
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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.
  • Links to other Internet based Tax Research materials.
  • 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 2012.
    – The final release will ship the beginning of March 2012.
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).
taxmap/pubs/p970-055.htm#en_us_publink1000178753

Appendices(p76)

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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 2010.
  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(p76)

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Dave and Valerie Jones are married and file a joint tax return. For 2011, they claim exemptions for their two dependent children on their tax return. Their modified adjusted gross income is $105,000. Their tax, before credits, is $11,631. They will have no credits other than the education credits. Their son, Sean, was in graduate school (fifth year of college) in September 2011 and will receive his master's degree in psychology from the state college in May 2012. Their daughter, Corey, enrolled full-time at that same college in August 2010 to begin working on her bachelor's degree in physical education. In July 2011, Dave and Valerie paid $2,400 in tuition costs for each child for the fall 2011 semester. In December 2011, they also paid $2,600 of tuition for each child for the spring 2012 semester that begins in January.
Dave and Valerie, their children, and the college meet all of the requirements for the education credits. 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 2011 for academic periods beginning in 2011 and January 2012 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 2011, for academic periods beginning in 2011 and January 2012, qualify for the American opportunity credit.
Dave and Valerie figure their refundable American opportunity credit, $1,000, as shown in Part III of the completed Form 8863. They carry the amount from line 14 of Form 8863 to line 66 of Form 1040. Dave and Valerie figure their tentative lifetime learning credit for 2011, $1,000 (line 6). They cannot claim the full amount because their MAGI is more than $102,000. The reduced amount ($850 on line 5 of the Credit Limit Worksheet) is added to their nonrefundable American opportunity credit ($1,500 on line 10 of the Credit Limit Worksheet) for a total nonrefundable credit of $2,350. They carry that amount to Form 8863, line 23, and to line 49 of Form 1040. They attach the completed Form 8863 to their return.

taxmap/pubs/p970-055.htm#en_us_publink1000255710

Credit Limit Worksheet—Form 8863, Line 23

Nonrefundable lifetime learning credit
1.Enter the amount from Form 8863, line 221.850  
2.Enter the amount from Form 1040, line 46, or Form 1040A, line 28 2.11,631    
3.Enter the total, if any, of your credits from:     
 Form 1040, lines 47, 48, and the amount from Schedule R entered on line 53 Right brace3.0    
 Form 1040A, lines 29 and 30  
4.Subtract line 3 from line 24.11,631  
5.Nonrefundable lifetime learning credit. Enter the smaller of line 1 or line 4 5.850  
Nonrefundable American opportunity credit
6.Enter the amount from Form 8863, line 156.1,500  
7.Enter the amount from Form 1040, line 46, or Form 1040A, line 28 7.11,631    
8.Enter the total, if any, of your credits from:     
 Form 1040, lines 47, 48, and the amount from Schedule R entered on line 53, and the amount from line 5 above Right brace8.0    
 Form 1040A, lines 29 and 30, and the amount from line 5 above  
9.Subtract line 8 from line 79.11,631  
10.Nonrefundable American opportunity credit. Enter the smaller of line 6 or line 9 10.1,500  
11.Nonrefundable education credits. Add line 5 and line 10. Enter here and on Form 8863, line 23 11.2,350  
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Appendix B. Highlights of Education Tax Benefits for Tax Year 2011

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 Credit
Lifetime Learning CreditStudent Loan Interest DeductionTuition and Fees Deduction
What is your
benefit?
Amounts received may not be taxable

Credits can reduce the amount of tax you have to pay.
    
40% of the credit may be refundable
(limited to $1,000 per student).
Credits can reduce amount of tax you must payCan deduct interest paidCan deduct expenses
What is the annual limit?None$2,500 credit per student$2,000 credit 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 equipmentAmounts paid for required books, etc., that must be paid to the educational institution, etc., ARE required feesBooks
Supplies
Equipment

Room & board

Transportation

Other necessary expenses
None
What education qualifies?Undergraduate & graduate

K–12
Undergraduate and graduateUndergraduate & 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)

Must not have completed first 4 years of postsecondary education before end of preceding tax year.
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
$51,000 – $61,000

$102,000 – $122,000 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 2011 (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

Computer technology, equipment, and Internet access
(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$71,100 – $86,100

$106,650 – $136,650 for
joint and qualifying widow(er) with a dependent child returns
No phaseoutNo phaseout
Any nontaxable distribution is limited to the amount that does not exceed qualified education expenses.