Top 10 Tax Tools of the IRS
by Bob Williams
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Completing your income tax return every year is sort of like building a house: how quickly you finish depends on the tools you have available. And the IRS just happens to have a batch of tools that can help you make the right decisions on your next return – and get through in record time.
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Here's a brief rundown of just a few of the tools that we find most useful:
- Get a Transcript of Your Tax Records – If you want an exact copy of an already filed tax return, the IRS will charge you $50. But a transcript of your return – basically a printout with the amounts that appeared on your return – can give you the same information with a lot less hassle. A tax return transcript will show most line items contained on the return as originally filed, including changes made during processing. It is usually available for the current year and past three years. A transcript is free, and usually available immediately online.
- Online Payment Agreement – When you owe tax due, but don’t have enough money to pay your tax bill at one time, what can you do? You can request an installment payment plan from the IRS, and this is the place to get it.
- Withholding Calculator – Want to know how much to have your employer hold out of your paycheck to cover federal income taxes? Use this calculator to try different scenarios and find one that works best for you.
- Where’s My Refund? – This online tool can help tell you where your IRS refund is in the process: Processing, Awaiting Payment, or so forth. Check this 24 hours after you’ve e-filed your return, or 4 weeks after you mailed in a paper return.
- Where’s My Amended Return? – This tool helps track your amended return. Wait 3 weeks after mailing your return before accessing this tool. (All amended returns must be mailed, they can't be e-filed.)
- Electronic Filing PIN Request – This link gets you the one-time Personal Identification Number (PIN) from the IRS that proves you are who you say you are, and allows you to e-file. You can get this link on our website inside your return, but it never hurts to have another source!
- Sales Tax Deduction Calculator – Determine the amount of optional state and local sales tax you can claim on Schedule A of Form 1040.
- Exempt Organizations Select Check – Search for a charity, check a non-profit's tax-exempt status or verify how much of your contribution to a 501(c)(3) organization is tax deductible.
- First-Time Homebuyer Credit Account Lookup – Did you receive the First Time Homebuyer Credit? You can now check the status of your FTHBC online 24/7 for information on your repayments and account balance.
- Offer in Compromise Pre-Qualifier Tool – When you're financially unable to pay a tax due amount, the IRS could issue an Offer in Compromise, which allows you to pay a fraction of the original amount. Use this tool to determine whether you are eligible to apply for an Offer in Compromise and what an acceptable offer amount might be.
We hope your next income tax experience is smooth and worry-free. But if you should need a little help on your tax situation, with these in your tax toolbox, you’ll have your return built – and a refund installed – in no time at all.
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