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Wonder why you havenít received your federal tax refund yet? Need help finding a care giver for an aging parent? Or what about that tax law Congress just passed--how does it affect your pocketbook?

Today information is power. Itís a complex world, and consumers need to be more vigilant than ever. Knowing where to turn for answers to questions or to find information is essential to your personal and financial health. So hereís a short list of government agencies that may help.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) answers tax-related questions and provides information about dozens of topics. Call (800) 829-3676 for IRS forms and publications. Recorded information about commonly requested tax topics is available at (800) 829-4477. Customer service representatives field inquiries at (800) 829-1040 (stay on the line following menu options to talk to an operator). And visit the IRS Web site--itís a powerhouse of information about everything from electronic filing to deductions to the tax status of retirement benefits.

Thinking about a vacation? Youíll find phone listings for the tourism offices of all 50 states, and a whole lot more, at the Consumer Information Centerís Web site. Visit the site for free on-line information about consumer topics such as cars, money, small business, travel, food and nutrition, and employment. Call (888) 878-3256 or write to Consumer Information Center, Pueblo, CO 81009. Note: There may be a small charge to obtain materials through conventional mail.       

Suspect a problem with your pension? Check it out. The Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration (PWBA), Washington, D.C., enforces federal laws governing pensions and other employee benefits. Contact your local PWBA office for inquiries; check the federal government listings in your phone book, or call the Washington headquarters at (202) 219-8776. The brochure hotline is (800) 998-7542. Visit PWBAís Web site for information about regional and district offices, or to view publications, such as Protect Your Pension: A Quick Reference Guide.

Call the Social Security Administration (SSA) at (800) 772-1213 or your local office for questions about your benefits. Or write to: SSA, Office of Public Inquiries, 6401 Security Blvd., Room 4-C-5 Annex, Baltimore, MD 21235. The SSAís Web site provides information about how to obtain a personal earnings and benefit estimate statement (PEBES); disability and Medicare requirements; how to report fraud; or how to apply for services. Note: The SSA has temporarily discontinued the on-line interactive PEBES test due to security concerns.       

Get help for an elderly parent or relative by calling the Eldercare Locator at (800) 677-1116, a service of the federal Administration on Aging. Youíll get information about a variety of community resources such as home care, transportation, housing, home repair, meals, recreation, and social activities. Visit the Administration on Agingís Web site.

The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) supervises and insures 7,152 federal credit unions and insures 4,240 state-chartered credit unions. NCUA administers the federal fund that insures member deposits up to the $100,000 federal limit. Call NCUA at (703) 518-6330; fax (703) 518-6409. Write to NCUAís Office of Congressional Affairs at 1775 Duke Street, Alexandria, VA 22314, or e-mail at [email protected].       

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) insures deposits up to $100,000 at federally insured banks and savings associations. Call the FDIC at (800) 934-3342 for information about consumer protections, including deposit insurance. For questions, concerns, or complaints about the FDIC, call (800) 250-9286; or write to the FDIC Office of the Ombudsman, 550 17th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20429; or e-mail at [email protected].

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