How do you get simple tax questions answered?

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How do you get simple tax questions answered?

Postby JohnHD101 » Mon Jul 15, 2013 12:49 pm

My wife had a small business and we had accountants to do the payroll, taxes, etc. She no longer has the business and the accountants are way to expensive to use for our simple personal taxes. So now for the first time, we have no one to call to ask anything beyond a simple question - like a 10/15 minute discussion. I tend not to be inclined to "research" answers in the code, etc because I may not interpret something correctly.

To whom do you turn for answers/advice on taxes?
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Re: How do you get simple tax questions answered?

Postby jebmke » Mon Jul 15, 2013 1:11 pm

I do a lot of tax returns -- prepare or review probably 400-500 a year depending on the year.

I usually start with the 1040 instructions or publication 17 if I need to research something. I start by asking myself, which line on the 1040 is this issue likely to impact - then I drill down from there. Both the 1040i and Pub 17 will route you to specialized publication on a topic if more information is needed.

The IRS can be quite helpful if you have some idea of your question and you hit them during the off-peak. Unfortunately, they have had some budget restrictions. As a result, it is harder to reach someone than it used to be.

There are some very knowledgeable folks on this site. It helps if you have done some homework on your own. They tend not to like being a "reading service" for posters.
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Re: How do you get simple tax questions answered?

Postby JamesSFO » Mon Jul 15, 2013 1:15 pm

JohnHD101 wrote:My wife had a small business and we had accountants to do the payroll, taxes, etc. She no longer has the business and the accountants are way to expensive to use for our simple personal taxes. So now for the first time, we have no one to call to ask anything beyond a simple question - like a 10/15 minute discussion. I tend not to be inclined to "research" answers in the code, etc because I may not interpret something correctly.

To whom do you turn for answers/advice on taxes?


Within the constraints of asking on the internet, forums like this one are often helpful for getting a pointer to the right question to ask/publication to read/etc.
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Re: How do you get simple tax questions answered?

Postby ILnative » Mon Jul 15, 2013 1:16 pm

I am also a tax accountant and I second the idea to start by looking through the 1040 instructions and/or Pub 17. The IRS website actually has a lot of good information. Ernst & Young also puts out a tax guide every year that is worth having on your shelf. I worked there back in the day and we got a free copy and I still buy one almost every year. It is a really good resource with examples. However - tax law changes quickly so any kind of answer you get in print - check on the IRS website.
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Re: How do you get simple tax questions answered?

Postby frugaltype » Mon Jul 15, 2013 1:27 pm

JohnHD101 wrote:My wife had a small business and we had accountants to do the payroll, taxes, etc. She no longer has the business and the accountants are way to expensive to use for our simple personal taxes. So now for the first time, we have no one to call to ask anything beyond a simple question - like a 10/15 minute discussion. I tend not to be inclined to "research" answers in the code, etc because I may not interpret something correctly.

To whom do you turn for answers/advice on taxes?


If you're doing plain individual tax returns, this is not rocket science. The 1040 instructions and Pub. 17 are your friends. I would also, yes, google. This will often turn up an article in, say, Kiplingers on just the question you need to know about. You can double check in the IRS publications.

I would not depend on the IRS phone people, unless you burrow through to the real experts they have, and that's hard to do. The front line is clueless.

Or post in here (that's allowed, I assume?)
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Re: How do you get simple tax questions answered?

Postby jebmke » Mon Jul 15, 2013 1:36 pm

I'd be careful just googling, especially if you are just getting started. There is a lot of old (obsolete) and incorrect information out there. Things change frequently. You are correct, you can and should try to corroborate anything you get from a search with current IRS publications.

It is certainly OK to post questions here. Lots of people do it. But, like google, sometimes we get it wrong.
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Re: How do you get simple tax questions answered?

Postby ObliviousInvestor » Mon Jul 15, 2013 1:39 pm

I use Google a lot as a starting point. I would estimate though that more than half of my tax-related searches start with:
site:irs.gov
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Re: How do you get simple tax questions answered?

Postby jared » Mon Jul 15, 2013 1:41 pm

Pay a professional for advice.
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Re: How do you get simple tax questions answered?

Postby vectorizer » Mon Jul 15, 2013 1:43 pm

One other forum suggestion is TurboTax. There is a mix of TurboTax product-related questions and generic tax questions. Like any forum, you can get good advice and wrong advice. But also like any forum, you can often discern confident and repeated answers from veteran posters from others. Search first before posting, of course.
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Re: How do you get simple tax questions answered?

Postby Leesbro63 » Mon Jul 15, 2013 1:45 pm

www.fairmark.com then go to forums.
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Re: How do you get simple tax questions answered?

Postby nisiprius » Mon Jul 15, 2013 1:57 pm

I have found 800-829-1040 to be very helpful. In my experience calling that number has never been a waste of time.

What you typically get at that number is a short wait, a talk with what I call the "triage nurse," a short wait, and then a talk with someone who has an intelligent understanding of your question and can point you to the exact page of the exact downloadable publication that addresses the question. And can interactively talk to you and read the part of the document that applies. If that doesn't do it, then often there is another referral, and a couple of times the third person has done things like look up old records, and cite the chunk of the tax code and/or the IRS determination thingy that applies.

They won't directly answer questions like "Is exchanging Vanguard 500 Index for SPY a wash sale," or "how close can I sail to the wind," or "if I didn't get a 1099 is it safe for me not to declare the income..."
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Re: How do you get simple tax questions answered?

Postby nonnie » Tue Jul 16, 2013 3:09 am

you might try://turbotax.intuit.com/support/
https://ttlc.intuit.com

There's another interesting site also run by Intuit although this one is for tax professionals only. You won't be able to ask questions but you can search the database to see if someone else has asked the question you are interested in. It is http://www.taxalmanac.org/index.php/Main_Page

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Re: How do you get simple tax questions answered?

Postby Monkeyarms » Tue Jul 16, 2013 5:16 am

Be careful using Turbo Tax and other tax programs because they tend to not account for Alternative Minimum Taxes very well. Depending on the kind of business you have (Sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation) you might simply need to familiarize yourself with the necessary schedule that your accountant files. This should not change year to year so in short order you will be able to figure out how taxes impact you.

Depending on your status (active vs passive) your tax impact will vary sometimes significantly.
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