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Income Tax Bulletin Board

Federal Taxes (IRS)

* Forms: Order federal forms and publications by calling (800) TAX-FORM. Allow 10 days for delivery. If you have a fax machine, 100 of the most commonly used forms can be ordered by calling (703) 368-9694 from the telephone connected to the fax machine. Forms are also available through the Internet (see below) and at many post offices and public libraries.

* Refunds: For automated refund information, call (800) 829-4477.

* Questions: For tax questions, you have two options. You can call the IRS’ recorded tax information line at (800) 829-4477. For live telephone assistance, call (800) 829-1040. Both lines are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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* Internet: Tax forms and information are also available at the IRS’ Web site at https://www.irs.ustreas.gov. Taxpayers can buy a CD-ROM with more than 2,500 forms, instructions and other tax information for $18 on the Web or for $25 by calling (877) CD-FORMS.

* Walk-in help: IRS offices are open 8 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. weekdays and 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturdays until April 15. Locations include:

El Monte: 9350 East Flair Drive, 3rd Floor

Laguna Niguel: 24000 Avila Road, Room 3202

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Long Beach: 501 W. Ocean Blvd.

Los Angeles: 300 N. Los Angeles St., 4th Floor Lobby

Oxnard: 2500 Financial Square, Suite 1

San Bernardino: 290 North D St., 1st Floor

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San Diego: 880 Front St., Suite 1295

Santa Ana: 34 Civic Center Plaza, Room 206

Santa Barbara: 1332 Anacapa St., Suite 101

Van Nuys: 6230 Van Nuys Blvd., Room 1000

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* Problem-solving days: Taxpayers with ongoing IRS problems can meet with an IRS agent for help on April 6 in Long Beach at 501 W. Ocean Blvd. from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call (949) 360-2178 for details and appointments.

California Taxes (FTB)

* Forms and refunds: Call the state’s automated phone system. Hours are 6 a.m. to midnight on weekdays and 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends. Call (800) 338-0505 or (916) 845-6600.

* Questions: Use the automated system above to get answers to many of your tax questions. Live telephone assistance is available 6 a.m. to midnight weekdays and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays. Call (800) 852-5711. TDD line: (800) 822-6268.

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* Internet: Tax forms and tax information are also available at the Franchise Tax Board’s Web site at https://www.ftb.ca.gov.

* Walk-in help: FTB field offices are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, with extended hours on Wednesdays (open until 7 p.m.) and Saturdays (8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.) until April 15. On April 15, all offices will be open until 7 p.m. Locations include:

Burbank: 333 Glenoaks Blvd., No. 370

Long Beach: 4300 Long Beach Blvd., Suite 700B

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Los Angeles: 300 S. Spring St., No. 5704

San Bernardino: 464 W. 4th St., No. 454

San Diego: 5353 Mission Center Road, No. 314

Santa Ana: 600 W. Santa Ana Blvd., No. 300

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Ventura: 4820 McGrath St., No. 270

West Covina: 100 N. Barranca St., No. 600

Tax Guides

Judge a tax guide by how easy it is to find the answers you need. Browse through several with a specific question in mind and compare the information you find. Some options:

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* “Publication 17--Your Federal Income Tax” is a free publication from the IRS. Some tax guides reproduce the publication nearly word for word.

* “J.K. Lasser’s Your Income Tax 1999" ($15.95, Macmillan). The industry leader includes commonly used forms, tax tips, alerts and tax-planning ideas. Includes sections on estate planning, retirement distributions, retirement planning and saving for a college education.

* “The Ernst & Young Tax Guide 1999" ($15.95, John Wiley & Sons). The only guide written by a major accounting firm targets more affluent taxpayers with extensive sections on investments. Also includes forms, tips and tax planning suggestions.

* “H&R; Block 1999 Income Tax Guide” ($15, Fireside). Tax preparation for the masses. Includes a helpful organizer. Forms, tips and tax help included.

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* “American Express Tax Guide 1999" ($15.95, Harperbusiness). This book, a relative newcomer to the tax guide field, offers an easy-to-read style as well as forms, tips and tax help.

Finding a Tax Preparer

National tax-preparation chains, which tend to be the least expensive, offer employees trained in handling the most commonly used forms and schedules.

Enrolled agents are often former IRS employees now in private practice who specialize in individual tax preparation. You can find an enrolled agent by calling (800) 424-4339 or by visiting the Web site of the National Assn. of Enrolled Agents at https://www.naea.org.

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Certified public accountants pass a stringent national exam and are state-regulated. For a referral, visit the Web site of the California Society of CPAs at https://www.calcpa.org.

Tax Software, Web Sites

The two best-selling software packages are Intuit’s TurboTax (or MacIntax for Macintosh computers) and Kiplinger TaxCut. Both retail for about $25 for federal forms, slightly more for state forms. Both offer an interview format and extensive help menus. Both are also available on the Web at https://www.turbotax.com and https://www.taxcut.com.

There are several Internet-only sites offering tax preparation help: SecureTax at https://www.securetax.com is best for experienced taxpayers or those with simple returns. Similarly, OneTax at https://www.onetax.com is best for taxpayers with simple returns.

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Free Tax Preparation

Low-income and elderly taxpayers may qualify for free tax preparation, provided by volunteers trained by the IRS and the California Franchise Tax Board. For details and an appointment, call (800) 829-1040.

Taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes under $20,000 may prepare and file their own returns for free using WebTurboTax, an Internet-based software program. For details, visit https://www.webturbotax.com.


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