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Learning To Love the IRS

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NO WAY, you say! The Internal Revenue Service is the federal agency almost everyone loves to hate. However, the IRS is also a surprisingly useful source of the information you will need to determine when and how much you’ll have to pay. Whether you relish the challenge of filing your own taxes at the very last minute with desktop software or if you rely on a tax preparation professional, it’s a good idea to update your functional knowledge of the free tax resources your tax dollars have helped pay for. Federal funding cutbacks may have the IRS a little short-handed but it has been incentivized to become much more accessible and user-friendly online: http://www.irs.gov/


Case in point is the recent Tax Tip 2015-11, “Ten Great Reasons to visit IRS.gov”. This info-packed publication is well worth the few minutes of your time.

  1. Notably, the Feds have figured out that online filing makes getting the money out of your pocket and into theirs easier and faster. They are quick to tout that individuals making under $60,000 can use Free File software – yes, there’s an app for that: http://apps.irs.gov/app/freeFile/jsp/wizard.jsp?ck  If your bottom line exceeds $60K, there are free fillable forms at the ready. Admittedly, there’s a plethora of tax prep software packages out there with more facility in working with your accounting programs, but it’s nice to know that the IRS does not discriminate just because you are more financially successful this year.

  2. The Interactive Tax Assistant deals with basic tax topics more applicable to individuals.  For business-related questions, use the Tax Map feature. Click through, then type in your topic to find answers and links to publications specific to your issue.

  3. If you are just getting started on tax preparations, downloadable forms and publications are a click away. The forms make it easier to organize all those receipts and papers you have amassed. Maybe you need a better system…that’s a topic for another time.

  4. One big difference for 2014 tax reporting is the impact of the Affordable Care Act. http://www.irs.gov/Affordable-Care-Act should be your first stop for more information. Healthcare Tax Tip 2015-6  offers an easy IF-THEN table to get you started.

  5. Charitable donations are a common business expense. Did you give business gift certificates to your kid’s Scout Troop or used office furniture to a local non-profit? Take that deduction! If you are unsure about a group’s tax status, the IRS lets you easily verify their qualification as a tax exempt organization. In the years ahead, do this before you give something away. There are a lot of unscrupulous people out there. If the group is legit, it’s because the IRS has approved their 501C3 status.

  6. Of course, if you owe them money, the IRS offers you the means to pay online directly from your checking or savings account. You did set money aside in anticipation of this, didn’t you? Well, if not, begin now! Don’t pay them a penny in penalities when you can pay them quarterly or at least put extra cash into a simple savings account for that purpose.

  7. If you owe more than you can pay on April 15th, the IRS will help you give them your money in the months ahead in installments. Yes, there’s a fee but it beats having them beat down your door. Reference Point #6 about socking away some cash for your 2015 taxes.

  8. On the flip side, perhaps the pleasure of awaiting that refund check has revived your spirits. You can check the status of that check in the mail online too.

  9. As good as it is to get money back, ask yourself why you paid too much in the first place.This applies equally to why you owed more than you thought. Start by checking your tax withholding. Readjusting your status may help keep a little more money in your pocket or keep you out of late tax payment hot water in 2015.

  10. Lastly, you can order transcripts of past returns online too. Don’t waste time and aggravate your allergies digging through those boxes in the attic when you apply for a loan or your child’s student financial aid. The online form puts this basic information at your fingertips.

OK, so you’re not looking forward with joy to tax season. But you can be better prepared for it with a little online help from the IRS.


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Jamie Shepard
Consultant, Business Innovation Center

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