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SPECIAL REPORT: YOUR TAXES

Income Tax Bulletin Board: April 17 Approaches

March 05, 2000

If you haven't done your taxes yet, here's a basic guide to get you going. For more information, common questions with answers, tax forms and stories, check out 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.gov. Taxpayers can buy a

CD-ROM with more than 2,500 forms, instructions and other tax information for $21 on the Web or for $28 by calling (877) CD-FORMS.

* Walk-in help: IRS offices are open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. (Extended hours and weekend hours vary.) Locations include:

* El Monte: 9350 E. 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

Electronic Filing

Tax agencies say filing electronically is a safer, faster and more accurate way to file tax returns. When combined with direct deposit, an electronically filed return can produce a refund within days, rather than the weeks required with a paper return. Taxpayers can file electronically through a professional tax preparer or tax preparation chain, by filing through a tax preparation Web site or by using a computer loaded with tax preparation software and connected to a modem. There may be an added fee for electronic filing. For more information, visit the IRS Web site at http://www.irs.gov or the FTB Web site at http://www.ftb.ca.gov.

California Taxes (FTB)

* Forms and refunds: Call the state's automated phone system 24 hours a day, seven days a week at (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

7 a.m. to 4 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. FTB services also will be available at IRS offices during their extended hours. Locations include:

* Burbank: 333 Glenoaks Blvd., Suite 200

* 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.

Payment options

Both the IRS and the FTB now accept payment by credit card (Discover/Novus, American Express or MasterCard). A private company provides the service and charges a fee of about 3% of the billed amount. To charge a tax bill, call (888) 272-9829. Taxpayers who file electronically may opt to pay their bill through an automatic withdrawal from their checking or other bank account. The procedure, which requires the bank's routing number as well as the account number, is included in the tax preparation software.

If You Can't File by April 17

If you can't complete your tax return on time, file Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension, with the IRS by April 17 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 17, 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 17: Due date for income tax returns or for extension application. Last day for tax-deductible IRA contributions that count toward the 1999 tax year.

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