IRS Opens Free File Ahead of Tax Season

Tax-filing season doesn’t begin until January 31, but starting today, the estimated 100 million individuals and families with adjusted gross incomes of $58,000 or less for 2013 can prepare, complete, and file their federal tax returns electronically at no cost.

The IRS and the Free File Alliance, a coalition of fourteen tax software companies that partner with the IRS, kicked off the 2014 Free File program on January 17.

“By providing online commercial tax-preparation software at no cost, Free File has saved American taxpayers $1.2 billion since it began in 2003,” Free File Alliance Executive Director Tim Hugo said in a written statement.

IRS Free File provides a list of Free File Alliance member vendors and their free tax software products. Taxpayers may either choose the company that fits their needs or use the “Help Me Find Free File Software” tool. After selecting a tax software provider, users will be transferred to the company’s website to complete and e-file their federal tax return. The service is also available in Spanish.

The IRS noted that e-filed returns will be held by the Free File software companies until January 31 when the agency will begin accepting tax returns. The 2014 tax-filing season was supposed to start on January 21, but was delayed until the last day of the month because the IRS could not program and test its tax-processing systems during the sixteen-day federal government shutdown last October.

“Many tax preparers and tax software companies are now open for return preparation, including Free File,” new IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said in a written statement. “If you plan to get a head start on your taxes, remember to e-file. There is absolutely no advantage to filing by paper.”

Individuals with incomes of more than $58,000 who prepare their own taxes can use Free File Fillable Forms to e-file their returns starting on January 31. Free File Fillable Forms, the electronic version of IRS paper forms, helps these taxpayers with math, but not with step-by-step assistance, according to the IRS. State tax return preparation is not available using this option.

Koskinen reminded taxpayers on Friday that the IRS website has a plethora of information and services to help taxpayers prepare their tax returns.

“Additional services include ‘Where’s My Refund?’ for timely updates on refunds, YouTube videos with quick tax tips, and many other ways of getting information,” he said. “We encourage taxpayers to explore as tax season approaches.”

Taxpayers can check “Where’s My Refund?” for personalized refund information based on the processing of their 2013 tax return. Users can check the status of their e-filed return within twenty-four hours after the IRS accepts it. A taxpayer’s refund status is only updated once a day.

The IRS noted the fastest way individuals can receive their refund is by combining e-file with direct deposit. Once the agency begins processing returns, it expects to issue more than 90 percent of refunds in fewer than twenty-one days.

In addition, a tool that was launched on January 16, Get Transcript, enables taxpayers to download previous years’ tax returns directly from the IRS.

Related articles:

Save the Date: Tax Season to Start on January 31
Shutdown Fallout: IRS Delays 2014 Tax-Filing Season
IRS Cites High-Tech Changes for Tax Filing Season

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