IRS provides help with tax filing by phone

Joel Sawyer

At the end of life’s long road awaits death; and at end of the year awaits the tax collector.
Although neither death nor taxes can be avoided, at least the Internal Revenue Service has made preparing tax returns easier.
This week, representatives from the IRS will be at the University to assist anyone with questions about how to file returns the traditional way — through the mail — or in a new and time-saving way — over the phone.
Since last year, the IRS offers the option of filing returns over the phone to about a quarter of those who file tax returns in Minnesota. This option, called TeleFile, is only available to those who receive a specially marked purple TeleFile package through the mail.
“(TeleFile) is a way for the IRS to use technology to make taxes a little less taxing for people,” said IRS spokesman Bill Knight.
Last year, more than 50,000 Minnesotans took advantage of the TeleFile system.
With TeleFile, tax filers only need their W-2 forms, any 1099 bank interest forms and a touch tone phone.
When filers call, they are guided through each step by a recording that instructs them to enter information using their phone’s touch tone pads. TeleFile calculates the tax and refund, if any, in about 10 minutes, without the paperwork, signatures and postage costs.
TeleFile users can also have their returns electronically transferred to their bank accounts, a process that takes about three weeks rather than the eight to 10 weeks through the mail.
For many people, sifting through piles of paperwork causes the most confusion — a problem the IRS is working hard to solve.
“TeleFile and electronic filing are all steps the IRS has taken over a number of years to try and get the burden off the shoulders of people,” Knight said. “(With Telefile), the IRS is trying to make (filing taxes) as smooth and burden-free as possible.”
But others, like chemical engineering graduate student Adam Pivovar, actually prefer doing it the traditional way. Pivovar received a TeleFile package in the mail, but filed his taxes the same way he has for the last eight years.
“When I do stuff like that, it’s like what can I do that I know how to do, that will be the easiest way, that will be the shortest amount of time.’ And for me that’s still the old-fashioned way,” he said.
But the option of filing taxes by phone isn’t available to everyone.
“The IRS has to select you for TeleFile. If you don’t get the package in the mail you cannot use TeleFile,” Knight said.
Only people who file very basic tax returns and haven’t moved recently are eligible for TeleFile. Everybody else has to do it the long and, very often, the hard way.
“As long as we have a complex tax law, that complex law is going to be reflected on the forms,” Knight said.
IRS representatives will be at Coffman Memorial Union Monday and Tuesday to assist anyone with questions about TeleFile. Other filers can receive tax assistance at Nicholson Hall all week and at Wilson Library on Thursday.