Taxpayers with questions about filing their returns will once again have a free opportunity tonight to pose their questions, by phone or online, to a panel of accountants hosted by The Buffalo News.

The newspaper’s annual tax help-line call-in night will be held from 5 to 9, with 11 professional accountants answering a range of queries from News readers. Some of those questions and answers will be summarized in the newspaper the following day.

Because of the volume of questions online in the past, at least two of the accountants will be on the phones, and others will be online during each two-hour shift. Online questions can be posted at starting at 5 p.m.

The panel of accountants is organized by the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants and consists entirely of volunteers.

There is no charge for using the service.

“Most people are so happy just to have somebody to call, which makes us feel good,” said Timothy Hoelscher, semiretired CPA with his own practice in Hamburg, who coordinated the group.

There are some changes from last year in the federal tax code, but most of them affect higher-wealth individuals, such as the net investment income tax and an additional Medicare tax, he said.

For average taxpayers, there is a new, higher threshold for deductions for medical expenses, Hoelscher said.

It used to be taxpayers could deduct medical costs that exceeded 7.5 percent of their gross adjusted income; that threshold is now 10 percent (though the 7.5 percent threshold still applies to people 65 or older).

There are also simplified methods for office-in-home deductions, he said.

Hoelscher said questions submitted to the panel hosted by The News in past years have included whether someone needs to file at all, whether taxes apply to the sale of a home, and what to do if someone has not filed a return for several years.

Besides Hoelscher, volunteers include Peter Bellanti, senior tax manager at Amato Fox & Co. PC; Joe Kabacinski, assistant professor of accounting at D’Youville College; Mark Janulewicz, partner at Lumsden & McCormick CPAs; Rosemarie Steeb, principal, Chiampou, Travis, Besaw, & Kershner LLP; Christine Learman, owner, Christine A. Learman, CPA, PC; David Lever, supervising senior accountant for Tronconi Segarra & Associates; Bruce Zgoda, owner of, and Todd Zgoda, tax manager at, Bruce M. Zgoda CPA; and Dennis and Jane Jewell, partners at Noonan & Jewell CPAs.

To ask a tax question, call 849-6090 or go online to between 5 and 9 tonight.