If you want to get a jump on the tax filing season, the IRS is providing Free File brand-name software at no cost before the filing season begins on Jan. 31.
Fourteen commercial software companies that provide their Free File tax prep products are now available online — only at IRS.gov/freefile.
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. As previously announced, 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," said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.
To get a head start on your taxes, Koskinen reminds taxpayers to use e-file, which will allow software companies to hold your return and then automatically send it to the IRS on Jan. 31.
"There is absolutely no advantage to filing by paper,” Koskinen said. “If you want to save money and time, just use Free File to prepare and e-file your federal return at no charge.”
Free File, a public-private partnership, is the free way to do your federal tax returns either by using brand-name software or online IRS 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. Starting Jan. 31, Free File Fillable Forms will be available to accept tax returns for free e-filing from all taxpayers who are comfortable preparing their own tax return.
Here’s how it works:
- At IRS.gov/freefile, 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.
- You can review each of the 14 company offers or use the IRS “Help Me Find Free File Software” tool to find an offer that matches your situation. Once you make your selection, you will be directed to the commercial provider’s website to begin preparing your return.
- Free File is for federal returns but most companies also offer state tax return preparation, some for free.
- If your income was more than $58,000, you can still do your taxes and e-file them. 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 used to 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 your 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.