By Johnny Jackson
The Internal Revenue Service will extend a helping hand to taxpayers this weekend, as part of an assistance program designed to help those suffering from a battered economy.
The IRS will open three metro-Atlanta Taxpayer Assistance Center offices Saturday, to provide taxpayers free tax preparation assistance, according to IRS Spokesman Mark Green.
Green said IRS employees will be available at the offices to answer taxpayer questions. The offices, to be open from 9 a.m., until 2 p.m., are located at the IRS' Chamblee-Tucker Office, at 2888 Woodcock Blvd., in Atlanta; the Summit Office, at 401 West Peachtree St., in Atlanta; and the Smyrna Office, at 1899 Powers Ferry Road in Atlanta.
Green said free tax preparation and electronic filing also will be offered to individuals who earn $49,000 per year or less.
Additionally, he said, individuals who are unable to pay their full tax liability by the April 15 deadline can arrange payment installment plans and get assistance with existing issues, like levies on wages or bank accounts, bills, and collection letters.
"We are trying to help the people of our community cope with tax-related questions and issues they may never have faced before," Green said. "IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers are not typically open on Saturdays, but we hope making extra service available on Saturday ... will help ease the burden some people are experiencing."
The IRS also partners with community organizations to offer the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, for taxpayers earning $49,000 or less, and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE), for citizens 60 years old or older filing their 2009 income taxes electronically. Green said many of the VITA and TCE program sites operate during the week and on Saturdays.
The sites have become increasingly popular among area residents, according to Andre Re, VITA site coordinator in Henry and Clayton counties.
Re, a retired executive with the IRS, heads up VITA operations at First Assembly of God, at 338 Ga. Highway 42 in McDonough. He said the site -- which will be open from 8:30 a.m., until 1 p.m., each Saturday through April 10 -- has seen increased traffic over the past few tax seasons.
"It's built up over the years," Re said. "We filed 200 returns last year at this site."
He said word of mouth has driven many taxpayers to pursue the VITA and TCE programs as alternatives to filing paper returns themselves. Through the programs, he added, taxpayers get some expertise on the ever-changing landscape of tax law.
"Taxes have gotten too complicated," Re said. "I think some come to us because they are afraid to do it on their own. And we do have well trained people working at this site."
Green believes the increased interest in electronic filing is related to the speed and convenience of the transaction.
The IRS has seen more than a third of Georgia's anticipated electronic returns filed already, Green said. In the first 30 days of the tax season, the IRS has received 1.366 million returns electronically, out of an expected 4 million for the year in Georgia.
He said the state ranks among the top in the nation, so far, for the number of returns filed electronically, close behind Texas, New York, California, and Florida.
"Free filing has been very popular as well as electronic filing in general," Green said. "Taxpayers want their refunds back as soon as possible and at the cheapest price.
"We have a large segment of the population that are doing it themselves, because software is becoming cheaper and electronic filing is more convenient," he continued. "It's more convenient, it's fast, safe, and accurate. And of course, if you file through us, it's free."
For information about other local VITA and TCE sites, call 1-800-906-9887, or dial 211. To learn more about free electronic filing through the IRS, visit the IRS web site.
On the net:
Internal Revenue Service: www.irs.gov