The Internal Revenue Service reports that it gets more telephone calls the day after Presidents Day than on any other day of the year.  

But if you’re among those trying to reach the IRS, don’t hold your breath. The agency’s lack of funding, coupled with an expected shift in resources to handle the new tax law, means that many of those calls will go unanswered. 

Even before passage of the new tax law, the IRS projected that taxpayers had just a 6-in-10 chance that their phone call seeking assistance would be answered this tax season. 

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“The IRS cannot answer the phone calls it receives, much less the phone calls it can expect to receive in light of tax reform,” Nina Olson, head of the Taxpayer Advocate office, the IRS’ internal watchdog, wrote in a recent report.

Those callers who do get through shouldn’t expect the IRS to answer anything more than basic questions, such as which form to use for a specific issue. The agency no longer provides detailed phone guidance from humans, just recorded messages.

Instead, use these free resources to get the answers you need.

Find Online Help

• Check the IRS website. The agency has detailed information on numerous topics. It also includes a variety of interactive worksheets and calculators on subjects such as who you can claim as a dependent (the most asked question among individual taxpayers), which filing status to chooseeligibility for education credits, and even whether you need to file a tax return at all.

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(The IRS just issued new tables on how much to withhold from your paycheck based on the new tax law; later this month it will update its withholding calculator to help you make that determination yourself.)

• Visit free DIY tax forums. They’re hosted by do-it-yourself tax-prep software companies H&R Block and TurboTax. Taxpayers can ask questions and get answers—in some cases from tax experts, in other cases from seasoned DIYers. 

• Consult an expert within an online tax-prep program. Typically the free versions of online tax-prep products don’t allow you to access their tax experts—CPAs or enrolled agents—unless you pay to upgrade. But recently, while testing the online version of H&R Block Deluxe, we found that we were able to engage in a free chat with a tax expert without paying a dime. (The product requires you to pay when you file, not when you start the process.)

Word of caution: The H&R Block online instructions missed a step in explaining how to do this. We had to contact someone in the company’s call center to learn the right process. Here it is: 1) Click on “Help Center,” which results in a drop-down menu. 2) Type “ata chat” in the search box at the bottom of that menu. 3) Click on “get additional help” at the bottom of the next pop-up window. A box then appears with the option to ask a tax question.

Get In-Person Assistance

• Visit an IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center. There are fewer of them, but they still exist; you can find one here. You’ll need to schedule an appointment. You stand a better chance of getting a staffer’s time and attention if you schedule your appointment now, rather than waiting. 

So that you don’t waste your time at a Taxpayer Assistance Center that can’t handle your particular tax return or tax issue, check out IRS Publication 3676-B (PDF), which lists which tax topics the centers can and cannot help you with. You may have to pay a professional to handle items that aren’t on the “yes” list.

• Check out other free community-based help centers. Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) are programs sponsored by the IRS and managed by trained local community volunteers. They can help individuals fill out their tax returns. (Some may be staffed, for instance, by accounting students from a local college, supervised by an accounting professor.) The TCE program is available for taxpayers 60 or older; most TCE services are operated by the AARP Foundation’s Tax-Aide program

If You Do Call the IRS

The agency says that individuals who call will have to verify their identity to help prevent tax fraud. You may need:

• Your Social Security number.

• An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number letter if you have that in lieu of a Social Security number.

• Your filing status: Single, Head of Household, Married Filing Jointly, or Married Filing Separately.

• Your 2016 tax return.

If you’re calling about concerns related to a prior-year return, you’ll need to have:

• Social Security numbers and birth dates for those who were named on the tax return in question.

• A copy of the tax return in question.

• Any IRS letters or notices you’ve received.