Weekly Columns

Tax Time Tips

Feb 21 2020

It’s common for many hardworking Americans to start thinking about tax filing season when the New Year begins. Many Arkansans who want to get a head start on this annual process are looking for tax forms and resources to make this task easier. My office regularly hears from Natural State residents in early January who are looking for tax information. Now that we are nearing the end of February, the race to file taxes is in full swing, and taxpayers are trying to find the best method and least expensive way to file quickly and correctly. The good news is the IRS has resources available to make tax preparation simple.

Filing electronically is the safest, fastest and most accurate way to file taxes. In 2003 the IRS partnered with a group of private tax software companies to launch the Free File Program. The goal of the program is to make it both easy for hardworking Americans to file their federal taxes and cost-effective. Since its launch, more than 56 million returns have been filed. Taxpayers who earned less than $69,000 in 2019 are eligible to use the “Free File” software that’s available at www.IRS.gov. There are also electronic forms and resources for taxpayers whose income is over the limit.  

While electronic filing continues to increase, filing on paper is still an option. Taxpayers who plan on using this method and can’t find the appropriate forms can get them by calling the IRS publications hotline at 800-829-3676.  

To ensure taxes are prepared accurately, many people turn to experts for help. We are fortunate to have many tax assistance programs across the state that are ready to help with IRS-certified volunteers. It is easy to search by zip code on the IRS website at irs.treasury.gov/freetaxprep, or contact any of my offices throughout Arkansas. My staff will be happy to connect you with local agencies that are providing tax assistance.  

I’ve visited several of these great volunteer programs over the years and am grateful for the tremendous service they provide through the federally-funded Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE). VITA offers free tax help to people who earn $56,000 or less, persons with disabilities and limited English-speaking taxpayers who need assistance in preparing their own tax returns. TCE offers free tax assistance for those who are 60 and older, and can be especially helpful with tax questions unique to seniors. 

In addition to filing concerns, my office regularly hears from Arkansans who need help navigating problems with the IRS. We are fortunate to have a Taxpayer Advocate office in Little Rock to assist with these issues. Arkansans who are running into bureaucracy problems with the IRS are welcome to contact my office for a referral to the Taxpayer Advocate or contact the agency directly at 501-396-5978. 

I recently met with the Arkansas Taxpayer Advocate Steve Hudspeth. We discussed the ways the IRS can improve its customer service strategy, filing process and taxpayer protections to better serve Arkansans. While the IRS has made significant strides to become more taxpayer-friendly over the last several years, there is still a long way to go. I look forward to continuing to work with the Advocate’s office to make sure Arkansans are treated fairly in these processes.

While many Americans dread tax time, we are working to create more opportunities to make it easier, more convenient and economical to accomplish this civic duty.