Interactive Tax Assistant (ITA) – 2021 Tax Season

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If you require help completing your tax returns, one of the available tools is the IRS Interactive Tax Assistant. It is a part of the IRS website and provides answers to common tax questions. The frequently asked questions section is organized by category, but there is also a search bar that lets you type in a question specific to your situation.

The categories that gather most questions include:

  • Filing requirement, form to use, due date
  • Filing status, dependents and exemptions
  • Retirement: pensions, IRAs, Social Security
  • Other income (scholarship, gambling, tips, etc.)
  • Deductions
  • Credits
  •  International

The categories above appear more valuable to having the questions answered than the search box. The search box doesn’t seem to focus on the key words, but rather on specific questions. For example, I typed “Do I need to pay taxes on tips” and the search did not return any results. I then typed the question as it is stated in one of the categories: “is my tip income taxable” and naturally there was a match.

How does the ITA work?

Once you settle on the question you would like to have answered or clarified, there is what’s called an interview process. It is a series of questions that help provide the best answer to your inquiry. I thought it was very helpful that an estimated completion time was listed. There is also a list of information that will be required during the interview process. I decided to go with “Is my tip income taxable?”

The questions are in a dropdown format and for this particular question the interview asked to select the tax year, type of employment, type if income (cash/noncash), and what form was provided by the employer.

My interview only lasted a few minutes despite the fact that the estimated time was listed as 10 minutes. I think this may have to do with the answers I provided. Because I don’t perform a line of work that pays tips, my answers were purely hypothetical and it may have shortened the path to the final answer.

At the conclusion of the interview there was a clear answer to my question. I liked that the interview questions were very specific at times, asking for information from the particular fields of the forms I indicated I received from my employer.