Let electronic tax filing begin!
Of course, if you're itemizing expenses on Schedule A or claiming a couple of other deductions directly on your 1040, your return won't be processed for a few more weeks. But IRS Senior Executive David Williams says to e-file early anyway.
"There's no need to wait to file," says Williams. "If you're ready to file, go ahead and file and the tax software industry is prepared to essentially stockpile these returns and then send them when we're ready to accept them."
That's good news for filers who have their tax acts together.
Even better news is that today also is opening of the ninth year of Free File. This partnership between the IRS and tax software manufacturers provides free tax preparation and e-filing for certain taxpayers.
This filing season, if your 2010 adjusted gross income is $58,000 or less, you're eligible to use Free File. The income limit is the same for all taxpayers, regardless of filing status.
The participating tax software vendors this year are TaxACT, FreeTaxUSA.com, ezTaxReturn.com, TaxSlayer, 1040NOW.net, TurboTax Freedom Edition, Free1040TaxReturns.com, Online Taxes at OLT.com, EFileTaxReturns.com, TaxSimple, eSmart Tax powered by CompleteTax, FileYourTaxes.com, OnlineTaxPros.com, I-CAN! Free File, 123 Easy Tax Filing LLC and H&R Block Free File.
Each Free File company must follow the $58,000 income limit, but they also can establish their own eligibility criteria, such as age, state, eligibility for the Earned Income Tax Credit, and military status. Be sure to check each company's offer to make sure you qualify and also pay attention to possible fees, such as a charge to file a state tax return.
Other free filing options: If your income last year was too high for Free File, you still might be able to file for free. The IRS is once again offering its fillable forms. These are online versions of the paper forms, but once you open them on your computer, you can fill in the lines and then e-file them.
This option is primarily for folks who know what should be on their returns. The IRS's fillable forms perform only basic calculations and you won't find any state forms at the federal site. Still, if you don't qualify for Free File and don't want to buy software, fillable forms might be for you.
And for filers who don't have easy access to computers, the Free File Alliance, the group to which the participating software makers belong, is working this year with the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program, or VITA.
VITA's community clinics offer low-to-moderate income taxpayers, generally those making $49,000 or less, free help in preparing and filing their returns. Free File member software will be available on self-assist kiosks at VITA sites in 29 states across the country.
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