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Income Tax Bulletin Board: April 15 Approaches

April 11, 1999

If you haven't done your taxes yet, here's a basic guide to get you going. There is plenty of additional information, common questions with answers, tax forms and stories at http://www.latimes.com/taxes.

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, seven days a week.

Internet: Tax forms and information are also available at the IRS' Web site at http://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:

Monte: 9350 East Flair Drive, 3rd Floor

Laguna Niguel: 24000 Avila Road, Room 3202

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 N. D St., 1st Floor

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

California Taxes (FTB)

Forms and refunds: Call the state's automated phone system. Hours are 6 a.m. to midnight weekdays and 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. 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.

Internet: Tax forms and tax information are also available at the Franchise Tax Board's Web site at http://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 (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., Suite 370

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

Los Angeles: 300 S. Spring St., Suite 5704

San Bernardino: 464 W. 4th St., Suite 454

San Diego: 5353 Mission Center Road, Suite 314

Santa Ana: 600 W. Santa Ana Blvd., Suite 300

Ventura: 4820 McGrath St., Suite 270

West Covina: 100 N. Barranca St., Suite 600

Common Errors

Avoid the most common filing errors. Double-check Social Security numbers, and include Social Security numbers for all dependents claimed. Check your math. Sign and date your return. Don't claim an exemption if you or your spouse is claimed as a dependent on someone else's return. Send the federal return to the IRS address in Fresno and the state return to the California Franchise Tax Board address in Sacramento.

If You Can't File by Thursday

If you can't complete your tax return on time, file Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension, with the IRS by April 15 to get a four-month extension. (The state extension will be granted automatically when you file the form.) If you owe, you still must estimate and pay your taxes by April 15, even if you take longer to file. However, file even if you can't pay: Penalties for failing to file are much greater than penalties for failing to pay.

Mark Your Calendar

April 15: Due date for income tax returns or for extension application. Last day for tax-deductible IRA contributions that still count toward the 1998 tax year.

Aug. 16: Deadline for submitting 1998 tax return and owed taxes if you received an extension for April. Second extension application due.

Oct. 15: Final deadline for submitting 1998 tax return if granted second extension.

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 http://www.turbotax.com and http://www.taxcut.com.

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

Tax Tips

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