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How to Do Your Federal Taxes for Free

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Posted: Sunday, February 16, 2014 10:00 pm | Updated: 1:33 am, Mon Feb 17, 2014.

(Family Features) Looking to save money and time when it comes to your taxes? There’s a simple way to do your federal taxes, and it’s all for free. The program, called “Free File,” does the hard work for you, either through brand-name software or online fillable forms. And, it’s available only at IRS.gov.

A Simple Way to Cut Fees

Free File is offered through the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by 14 of the nation’s leading tax software manufacturers. Nearly 40 million people have used this helpful program, and using the most conservative estimate, they’ve saved $1.2 billion in fees.

It’s available 24/7, giving you the freedom to decide when and how to do your federal taxes. Plus, the software is user-friendly, offering a familiar Q&A format and the freedom to complete your return at your own pace.

How to Sign Up

Here’s how you start:

  • Go to www.irs.gov/freefile.
  • If your income was $58,000 or less, select the “Start Free File Now” button.
  • Each of the 14 participating companies has a special offer.
  • Review the company offers or use the “help me find Free File software” tool.
  • Select your tax software that matches your situation.
  • Leave IRS.gov and go to the company’s site to begin your taxes.

If your income was more than $58,000, you can use Free File Fillable Forms, the electronic version of IRS paper forms. Just select the “Free File Fillable Forms” button at www.irs.gov/freefile. This version is best if you are comfortable preparing your own tax return with more limited help.

Remember to always use e-file to file your returns electronically. You’ll get your refund faster when you combine e-file and direct deposit.

Use Self-Help Options on IRS.gov

Free File is just one of many self-help options available at IRS.gov. Wondering about your refund? Just select “Where’s My Refund” to track the status of your refund and get a personalized refund date.

Have a tax law question? Visit the Interactive Tax Assistant, IRS Tax Map or Tax Trails. You also can find payment options and request an installment payment agreement online. You can even order a summary of a previous tax return. When you have questions, make IRS.gov your first stop.

Materials Needed to Get Started

Keep this as a checklist of the items you will need to file your return. The IRS recommends keeping all tax-related documents for three years, in case of an audit. Tracking income-related documents can help you take full advantage of deductions available to you.

  • A copy of last year’s tax return
  • Valid social security numbers for yourself, spouse and children
  • All income statements, i.e. W-2 forms from all employers
  • Interest/dividend statements, i.e. 1099 forms
  • Form 1099-G showing any state refunds
  • Unemployment compensation amount
  • Social Security benefits
  • Expense receipts for deductions
  • Day care provider’s identifying number

Did you know?

  • Most refunds are issued in less than 21 days.
  • Combining e-file with direct deposit is still the fastest way to get your refund.
  • Use “Where’s My Refund?” to get personalized refund information.
  • You can also use the IRS app, IRS2Go, to check the status of your refund.
  • Can’t meet the April 15 deadline? Use Free File for a free extension; then use Free File to do your taxes by October 15.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance

There are 13,000 Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites nationwide that offer free help to people earning $52,000 or less. Search “VITA” on IRS.gov for a nearby site.

Tax Counseling for the Elderly, which is operated by AARP Foundation Tax-Aide, offers free help all with priority assistance to people who are age 60 and older. Find a Tax-Aide site at AARP.org or call 888-227-7660. Some VITA/TCE sites even offer Free File.

Earned Income Tax Credit: How to Get It Right

No tax benefit offers a greater lifeline to working families than the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). But putting this credit to work can be complex. The IRS has upgraded its EITC Assistant on IRS.gov to make it easier than ever to determine if you are qualified and how much you may receive.

 

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • You must have a social security number and have earned an income.
  • The maximum credit for 2013 tax returns is $6,044 for workers with three or more qualifying children.
  • Eligibility for the EITC is determined based on a number of factors including earnings, filing status and eligible children. Workers without qualifying children may be eligible for a smaller credit amount.

You can learn more at www.irs.gov/eitc and use the EITC Assistant or ask your tax professional. If you are eligible for EITC, you also qualify for free tax help at VITA sites nationwide or for Free File at www.irs.gov/freefile.


Photo courtesy of Getty Images

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