IRS encourages taxpayers to get a jump on their returns

To help people get a jump on their taxes before the Jan. 31 filing season opens, the Internal Revenue Service this week made available its Free File brand-name software for most taxpayers.

Fourteen commercial software companies that provide their Free File tax prep products at no cost began offering their products at

Although you can complete and e-file your tax return now, the Free File companies will hold it until Jan. 31 when the IRS begins accepting returns. The IRS delayed the filing season due to critical system testing following the federal government closure.

“Many tax preparers and tax software companies are now open for return preparation, including Free File. If you plan to get a head start on your taxes, remember to e-file. Electronic filing will allow software companies to hold your return and to automatically send it to the IRS on Jan. 31. There is absolutely no advantage to filing by paper,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.

As Jan. 31 approaches, Koskinen reminds taxpayers that has a range of information and services to help taxpayers prepare their tax returns.

“Free File is just one of the many services available through to help people with their taxes,” he said.

“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. We encourage taxpayers to explore as tax season approaches,” Koskinen said.

Free File, a public-private partnership, is the free method for completing federal tax returns either by using brand-name software or online fillable forms. Free File software is available now to more than 100 million individuals and families that earn $58,000 or less, which is 70 percent of taxpayers.

Taxpayers who have used Free File since 2003 have saved more than an estimated $1.2 billion.

Here’s how it works:

At, select the “Free File Software” button. Each of the 14 Free File companies sets specific offers – generally based on income, state residency and age – to use their software. If your income is $58,000 or less, you will find at least one, if not more, offers available to you.

Taxpayers can review each of the 14 company offerings or use the IRS “Help Me Find Free File Software” tool. Once a selection is made, the user will be directed to the commercial provider’s website to begin preparing a return.

Free File is for federal returns but most companies also offer state tax return preparation, some for free.

If the taxpayer’s income is more than $58,000, taxes can still be completed and e-filed. Just select the “Free File Fillable Forms” button. Again, this product will be available starting Jan. 31.

Free File Fillable Forms is the electronic version of IRS paper forms, and it is best for people who are familiar with doing their own taxes. This option helps with math but not with step-by-step assistance. Instructions for filling out the form can be found on the IRS website. State tax return preparation is not available using this option.

The fastest way to get one’s tax refund is by combining IRS e-file with direct deposit. Once the IRS begins processing returns, it expects to issue more than 90 percent of refunds in fewer than 21 days.

Check “Where’s My Refund?” for personalized refund information based on the processing of your 2013 tax return. Taxpayers can start checking on the status of returns within 24 hours after the IRS accepts an e-filed return. Updates to refund status are made once a day so taxpayers don’t need to check the status more than once a day.


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