The Internal Revenue Service today reminded low- to moderate-income taxpayers, especially those who don’t normally file a tax return, to consider IRS Free File to prepare their own federal tax return to potentially receive overlooked tax credits or refunds.
The 2023 federal tax filing deadline for individuals is next Tuesday, April 18. The only way to get a refund is to file a tax return.
IRS Free File allows qualified individuals to file electronically and get a refund by direct deposit – all for free. The program is a public-private partnership between the IRS and several tax preparation software companies who provide their online tax preparation and filing software for free. The software is safe, easy and accurate, and must be accessed through IRS.gov.
It offers two ways for taxpayers to prepare and file their federal income tax online for free:
- Guided Tax Preparation: Provides taxpayers whose Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) is $73,000 or less with free online tax preparation that guides people through the tax return process. It uses a straightforward question-and-answer format for each section of their tax return. IRS Free File partners deliver this service at no cost to qualifying taxpayers. Some partners charge a fee for filing a state tax return.
- Free File Fillable Forms: Provides a free option to taxpayers whose AGI is greater than $73,000. These are electronic federal tax forms, equivalent to a paper 1040 form. This option is generally intended for those comfortable preparing their own tax return using instructions and IRS publications as needed.
Not required to file doesn’t mean shouldn’t file
Generally, taxpayers with gross income less than $12,950 for single filers, and $25,900 for married filing jointly, are not required to file a federal tax return. However, low-income individuals may mistakenly assume that since they owe no tax, they’re not entitled to a refund. In fact, they may get money back if they file a tax return. For example, if an individual qualifies for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or if their employer withheld taxes from their paycheck, they may be owed a refund when they file their taxes.
The IRS encourages everyone to consider taking advantage of the speed and convenience of IRS Free File, including:
- Low- to moderate-income workers and working families who don’t normally file a return. They may miss out on certain credits for individuals, including the EITC, the Child Tax Credit, the Child & Dependent Credit and the Premium Tax Credit if they don’t file.
- People experiencing homelessness (the address of a friend, relative or trusted service provider, such as a shelter, drop-in day center or transitional housing program, may be used on the tax return).
- Students just entering the workforce or who may have only worked part time.
- All eligible parents of qualifying children born or welcomed through adoption or foster care in 2022. They may be eligible for the Child Tax Credit.
In order to validate and successfully submit an electronically filed tax return to the IRS, taxpayers will need their AGI from their most recent tax return. If using the same tax preparation software as last year, this field will auto-populate. However, first-time filers over the age of 16 should enter zero as their AGI.
Don’t have a bank account to direct deposit a refund?
Filing a tax return electronically and choosing direct deposit is the fastest way to get a refund.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the National Credit Union Administration’s Credit Union Locator Tool have information on where to find a bank or credit union to open an account online.
Veterans should use the Veterans Benefits Banking Program (VBBP) for access to financial services at participating banks.
Many reloadable prepaid cards have account and routing numbers that can be used for direct deposit as well.
Only one place guarantees IRS Free File for free
While there are many offers for free tax filing software, the only guaranteed place to find IRS Free File software is IRS.gov. Anyone can use IRS Free File by accessing a computer or similar device. Even without a computer, IRS Free File products support mobile phone access too.
For those not comfortable doing their own tax return, IRS-trained community volunteers offer free tax help through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs to qualified individuals at thousands of locations nationwide. The IRS website has a special tool for finding the nearest site. Taxpayers can also call 800-906-9887.