With each passing year, as the tinkle of Christmas bells becomes a memory of recent past and the New Year’s extravaganza starts fading, the taxpaying community of the United States of America braces up to affirm their identity as a responsible citizen. They start their preparations for filing their income tax return – a mandatory task for complying with the law. This is a complex task with many parties involved and seems a bit overwhelming. However the Internal Revenue Service of the Federal Government has an official website – http://www.irs.gov/ to facilitate this nationwide endeavour. The IRS is entrusted with the responsibility of all tax related matters for the government of the United States of America. This site provides comprehensive information to everyone about the taxation system. The user interface provides a quick reference guide through hyperlinks which can be further drilled down to successive pages for details on the topic.
The IRS (Internal Revenue Service) is an entity authorized by the US government to manage the taxation system with the objective of providing most efficient service to the taxpayers. This is evident from the fact that in the financial year 2012, the IRS has collected tax revenue in excess of $2.5 trillion while it processed tax returns figuring above 237 millions. In order to support this mission, the IRS has provided different options to the taxpayers, like toll free assistance number, the irs.gov website and local offices among other means. The IRS promotes a culture of Open Government for bringing about transparency and asks for ideas in the policy making process. It also partners with other government and private organizations to foster a participative environment.
The Website: www.irs.gov
Virtual Menu buttons
The top portion of the page has several hyperlinks that are designed as menu buttons. These are:
Filing – This is possibly the most visited link as all taxpayers are required by law to prepare a tax return and file it with the IRS. This section provides information about different e-filing options for various entities like Individuals, Small Business/Self Employed, Corporations and Government Organizations.
Payments – This section defines the process of payment of tax due to a taxpaying entity. It also details other options like deferred tax payments and consequences of not paying tax.
Refunds – Probably the most interesting section for someone who is waiting to receive the refund of extra tax paid. It gives an estimated time for the refund to be issue, from the time of filing, along with information about when and where to check for a refund status and inputs required for that.
Credits and Deductions – This is another section that provides information to tax payers to save more of what they earn. The credits refer to the qualifying expenses that the tax payer makes in certain cases. Such expenses can be included while filing the tax return to lower the tax payable amount. A typical example is expenses paid for the care of a physically disabled child or dependent. Deductions refer to the standard deductions and additional deductions like interest on home mortgages and donations to charitable institutions. These amounts are directly subtracted from the taxable income.
News and Events – Any relevant information available for the general public is published in this section. One such example is the contact details of IRS officials available for news media at various levels – national, state and local. Information related to events like deadlines for tax filing are included here.
Forms and Pubs – This sections list the different forms and publications of the current year and also of previous years which may be in the past decades! It also lists forms that can be accessed through technological assistance like voice recognition software, Braille display etc. Publications like ‘Armed Forces Tax Guide’ and ‘Medical and Dental Expenses’ are examples among a host of other items in this section.
Help and Resources — Any additional assistance that may be required is detailed in this section. Information related to addresses of IRS tax offices, in the different states, or telephone numbers for resolution of queries is provided here. This gives a sense of ‘help at hand’ to implement the processes of the taxation system.
For Tax Pro – If you are a tax professional who provides assistance to tax payers this is the section that would interest you. There is a load of information that you could use to do the job for your clients. The site contains details of circulars, announcements and guidelines to become an enrolled agent.
The personified section
This section provides a “human touch” with links to the following
Filing Form 2290 – This section is for those people who operate heavy vehicles and cannot be missed on the highways! They use form 2290 and this section helps them to file their tax, get schedule1 -among other things.
Get Refund Status – Discusses about getting refunds, the details of which is mentioned above.
Pay Your Tax Bill – Discussed in the payment section above.
The middle portion of the site
Forms and Pubs – This section gives some quick links to some of the forms like the 1040 – the Individual Income Tax Return which is a form very extensively used. This link navigates a user to the forms and publication site already discussed earlier.
Hot Topics – This is a dashboard of some items of interest like ‘Tax Provisions for the Affordable Care Act’. This provides details about getting tax credit if certain provisions are met.
Tools – If an individual wants to self prepare and file his or her tax return and wants help regarding tax calculations, requesting for PIN for e-filing, then this is the place where that person should focus.
Filing and Return – This section provides quick links to ‘where’s my refund?’, ’free file’, ’e-file’ and ‘EFTPS – The Electronic Federal Tax Payment System’.
The self moving section!
This section details the following:
Lapses in Appropriation – After the recent shutdown of the US Govt, the IRS is coming back to normalcy and this section informs the reader how it plans to get back in action.
Help for Tax Exempts – A section of interest for charitable institutions and non-profit organizations as it details about tax exemptions that can be obtained.
IRS Report – Section contains reports that the IRS has made public.
Same Sex Marriage – The tax treatment for people in this category in mentioned here.
Premium Tax Credit – This section discusses about the modalities of obtaining tax credit through payment of health insurance premium.