- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 18, 2017

The IRS is offering extended telephone help desk Saturday and even Monday, a federal holiday, to help taxpayers get a start on their filings.

The Tuesday following the Presidents Day holiday is typically the busiest day of the year for telephone calls, with the IRS fielding thousands of calls per hour.

But taxpayers can take advantage of the weekend hours and get a jump. The lines were open Saturday until 5 p.m. local time. On Monday phones will be answered from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time.

“We’re at the peak time of the tax-filing season right now. The IRS customer service phone lines are open Saturday and Monday of the Presidents Day weekend to ensure we’re available to help folks,” said IRS spokesman Matt Leas. “The IRS wants taxpayers to know that we’re here to help during this busy time, but IRS.gov has the answers to many routine questions.”

IRS customer service has improved dramatically over the last year. The agency answered fewer than 40 percent of calls during tax season in 2015, with callers waiting a half-hour, on average. Last year the answering rate soared to 73 percent.

The agency said the most frequent question is “Where’s my refund?”

The IRS has an online tool named “Where’s my refund?” to help taxpayers answer that question.

Taxpayers who claim the Earned Income Tax Credit or the Additional Child Tax Credit also will soon see updates to their files.

By law the agency has to hold any refunds for those taxpayers until Feb. 15.

“These refunds will likely not start arriving in bank accounts or on debit cards until the week of Feb. 27 — if there are no processing issues with the tax return and the taxpayer chose direct deposit,” the IRS said.

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