Thursday, February 14, 2013

Interagency offers virtual help with taxes

Residents needing help on their federal tax returns can have a virtual face to face conversation with an IRS employee at Interagency Council.

The so-called Virtual Service Delivery offered by the Internal Revenue Service opened for business Tuesday at the nonprofit’s 1940 Mesquite Ave. office. It’s part of a newer effort from the IRS to offer service to taxpayers in areas that previously had limited service or no service. The service will be open year-round and is available to anyone who needs help.

“It’s a cold start (Tuesday),” said Kim Anderson, Interagency program coordinator. “We’re up and able to run.”

Other than providing a room for the new IRS service, Interagency has nearly nothing to do with the IRS offering at its location. However, if there are technical problems, Anderson would be responsible for trying to get the system back online. It was that technical training that was needed that delayed the office from opening sooner, Interagency officials have said.

“This is very exciting,” Anderson said. “We’re hoping that people understand that (Interagency employees and volunteers) aren’t tax people. We don’t want them to get mad at us.”

When someone comes in to get free help from the IRS, they’ll be directed to an individual room where the IRS operation is set up. That room includes a monitor with a tiny camera attached on top for the two-way conversation. There’s a scanner off to the side for the taxpayer to scan a document that he wants the IRS employee to view.

For the past six months, Interagency has worked to get the IRS operation set up inside the nonprofit, Anderson said.

This is the second year of an IRS effort to partner with community groups to offer the virtual assistance.
In 2012, 14,000 taxpayers received assistance at 13 virtual service locations, according to an email response from the IRS. Thanks to the strong response to the program, the IRS is rolling out 14 new sites this year including the Interagency location.

With the one in Interagency opening, there are three virtual service locations in Arizona, including offices in Prescott and Flagstaff.

For more details and a list of the 27 available virtual service locations, visit

Virtual Service Delivery will be available at the Interagency office from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. On March 11, the free service will be available an hour earlier, starting at 8:30 a.m.

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