BATON ROUGE, La (NBC33) —
The Internal Revenue Service offers taxpayers a wide range of free tax help services, many of them available online or by smartphone, designed to help people easily and quickly meet their tax-filing and tax-payment responsibilities.
The IRS website, www.IRS.gov , provides answers to many tax questions in a user-friendly format. Visitors now have greater ease navigating through the site with a new front page and other newly redesigned pages. The IRS plans to continue making improvements in the months ahead.
Taxpayers can start by visiting 1040 Central, which has links to forms and instructions and is also the place to find important updates and information regarding tax return preparation and filing.
After 1040 Central, take a look at the Online Services section, which provides access to the following useful applications:
• Free File –– Everyone can find an option to prepare and e-file their tax returns for free through Free File. Taxpayers who earned $57,000 or less in 2011 qualify for brand name tax software free of charge through a private-public partnership with manufacturers. Free File Fillable Forms, the electronic version of IRS paper forms, are also available to all taxpayers comfortable preparing their own returns. Free File is available only through IRS.gov.
• Interactive Tax Assistant –– Taxpayers learn about credits, deductions and general filing questions.
• EITC Assistant –– Individuals can find out if they qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit, a popular tax benefit that aids millions of low-and moderate-income workers and working families.
• Electronic Federal Tax Payment System –– This site offers individuals and businesses a secure way to pay their federal taxes online, free of charge.
• Online Payment Agreement –– For those who cannot pay their tax liabilities by April 17, 2012, this site offers eligible taxpayers a quick and easy way to set up an installment agreement with the IRS in a matter of minutes.
• IRS Withholding Calculator –– Helps taxpayers determine the right amount of tax to take out of their paychecks.
After they file, taxpayers can check their 2011 refund status online using “Where's My Refund?” E-filers can check their refund status 72 hours after receiving an IRS acknowledgement of the acceptance of a tax return. Paper filers should wait three or four weeks after mailing their tax returns before having a refund status update. To use the “Where’s My Refund?” tool, taxpayers will need information that appears on their tax returns. Some taxpayers may receive directions to resolve refund-related problems. “Where's My Refund?” is also available by calling 800-829-1954.
The IRS advises taxpayers to ensure they visit the authentic IRS website by typing www.IRS.gov  into their browsers. The official site does not end in .com, .net, .org or any designation other than .gov.
Volunteer Tax Preparers
Free tax preparation is available through more than 12,000 Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) sites in communities across the nation. Taxpayers should check for the VITA site location closest to them by calling 800-906-9887. Taxpayers may also call the AARP Tax-Aide Program – the IRS’s largest TCE partner – at 888-227-7669 to find a convenient location.
Face-to-Face and Virtual Services at IRS Offices
IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers are available to people who believe their tax issues cannot be resolved online or over the telephone. In 37 centers, kiosks are available for individuals to access IRS.gov with the help of an IRS facilitator.
New this year, the IRS provides assistance virtually through video conferencing technology in 12 locations. This is a quick and effective, self-service option to access services such as:
• Help with letters, notices and levies on wages or bank accounts
• Adjustments to tax account information or payments
• Payment Arrangements
• Application for Taxpayer Assistance Order (ATAO)
• Tax Forms
Taxpayer Assistance Centers and virtual service locations can be found by clicking on Contact My Local Office under the ‘Individuals’ tab on IRS.gov. Check the “Services Provided” link prior to visiting the IRS. A message detailing operating hours and addresses is also available by calling the number in local phone directories.
Tax Forms and Publications
IRS tax forms and publications are available for free download 24 hours a day at IRS.gov. IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers also have tax publications, forms and instructions. Alternatively, taxpayers may place orders by calling the IRS at 800-829-3676.
Taxpayers can also pick up some of the most-requested forms, instructions and publications at many IRS offices, public buildings and local businesses.
Low Income Taxpayer Clinics
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, visit the LITC page on www.irs.gov/advocate  or Publication 4134, Low Income Taxpayer Clinic List. This publication is also available by calling 800-829-3676 or at your local IRS office.
Help in Other Languages and Formats
The Multilingual Gateway on IRS.gov contains federal tax information in Chinese, Korean, Russian, Spanish and Vietnamese.
For access to content in Spanish, taxpayers can also click on ‘Español’ from the IRS website, where in addition to tax information for individuals and businesses, taxpayers will find IRS Free File options in Spanish, useful tools like ¿Dónde está mi reembolso? and Asistente EITC or IRS news updates through Noticias en Español.
IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers provide help to taxpayers in more than 150 languages through interpretation services.
Information about credits, deductions and tax law changes is available on YouTube through the IRSvideos, Spanish at IRSvideosmultilingua and in American Sign Language at IRSvideosASL.
A variety of Braille materials can be downloaded from IRS.gov in .brf format that can be sent directly to an embosser for high quality Braille output. Braille materials are also available for order by calling the IRS at 800-829-3676 and for pick-up at certain libraries.
The IRS has several toll-free phone lines that taxpayers may also use for help. Taxpayers may order current and prior year forms, instructions and publications by calling 800-829-3676. To find answers to tax questions, taxpayers may call 800-829-1040 for individual issues or 800-829-4933 for business issues. Operating hours are Monday through Friday 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. local time. Taxpayers can also get information with little or no wait time by calling TeleTax at 800-829-4477. This service offers pre-recorded messages covering various tax topics.
TTY/TDD users may call 800-829-4059 to ask tax questions or order forms and publications.
Taxpayer Advocate Service
The Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) helps taxpayers whose problems with the IRS are causing financial difficulties; who have tried but haven’t been able to resolve their problems with the IRS; and those who believe an IRS system or procedure is not working as it should. Taxpayers who believe they are eligible for TAS assistance can call the TAS toll-free line 877-777-4778 or for more information, go to www.irs.gov/advocate .
The IRS also offers:
• Tax Tips –– Brief, to-the-point messages released daily during the filing season that cover topics such as common errors and extension requests.
• IRS2Go –– The IRS smartphone app, which gives taxpayers an on-the-go way to check on their federal tax refund, get tax help and more.
• IRSvideos –– Information about credits, deductions and tax law changes is available on the IRS YouTube channel. The IRS also has YouTube videos in American Sign Language (IRSvideosASL) and Spanish (IRSvideosmultilingua).
• @IRSnews and @IRSenEspanol –– IRS Twitter newsfeeds, which provide the latest federal tax news and information for taxpayers in English and Spanish.
• IRS audio files –– Informal tax messages in English and Spanish, to use for podcasts or to play on a portable music player. These are also available by subscription through iTunes.
For a full list of free tax services, taxpayers can download IRS Publication 910, Guide to Free Tax Services, from www.IRS.gov  or order the publication by calling 800-829-3676.