Federal budget cuts made in an attempt to reduce the federal budget deficit have resulted in reduced services from the Internal Revenue Service. This will impact taxpayers in a variety of ways, starting with reduced availability of tax law help via the agency’s customer service hotline. The hotline has previously been available to help answer a range of basic questions about income tax returns and which deductions apply. This year, help will be available for a limited amount of time, ending promptly on tax filing day even for those who have extensions. The help line operators will also be answering a narrower set of questions only on basic tax law issues.

Another issue raised by the cutbacks is that the IRS will no longer be able to offer the same services to seniors and lower-income taxpayers. Previously the IRS has offered tax preparation assistance through local help centers. This year, nonprofit organizations will gather volunteers to help provide assistance to those groups. The IRS is also encouraging people to try to answer their own questions using resources on the agency’s website.

Questions about income tax returns that cannot be answered by the IRS as a result of these cutbacks are often best directed towards professional tax preparers, such as certified public accountants. However, more complex tax law questions and issues with disputes about a tax return with the IRS are more appropriate for an attorney with experience in tax law. Getting into a dispute with the IRS over any allegations of wrongdoing is very serious, so it is important to understand the issues and be informed.

Source: New York Times, “Need Tax Help? The I.R.S. May Not Be the Best Place to Go,” Ann Carrns, Jan. 31, 2014.