- By Bob Goren
- Published 11/30/2011
Technology is a great thing – free tax filing is an IRS program that allows you to submit your tax returns faster and easier than ever before by doing it electronically on a computer. With this initiative, most people are eligible to file a single annual tax return without paying a dime. It also saves both you and the IRS time and money spent on admin costs.
There are a number of companies who participate in the Free File program. They can effectively help you to prepare and submit your federal tax return, with much less margin for error than doing it manually.
Now that we’ve outlined what free tax filing means, let’s take a deeper look at some of the relevant factors and benefits involved:
Eligibility for Free Tax Filing
Everyone is eligible to use the Free File program as long as you have an Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) of $58.000 or less.
Be aware however that some companies set their own eligibility criteria and may also be limited by your individual circumstances, such as your AGI (adjusted gross income), and geographical location of residence.
Free File Options
Free File Tax Software
These programs are available from companies who participate in the IRS scheme. Make sure you choose a company that is reliable and right for you – it’s a good idea to browse the list of available Free File companies before choosing and make sure you note the criteria they require for eligibility.
Completing Free File Forms Online
Regardless of your income, most people are eligible to file their returns using forms that you can fill out online. This online version of the traditional paper method is generally designed for taxpayers who are comfortable with preparing their own tax returns. Not only is it free, this option allows you to clearly fill in your tax information using your keyboard and even sign and file your return electronically.
Tax Preparer Professionals
If you’re uncomfortable preparing and filing your own tax returns or simply don’t want to do it online, you can alternatively choose a tax professional who will prepare and e-file your tax return for you. Most tax professionals use e-filing now, which is great because this method offers a lot of advantages.
Benefit Summary of Federal and State e-Filing
While Federal and State e-filing is not free, there is electronic filing software available which will allow you the taxpayer to conveniently file your federal and state returns conveniently at the same time.
By choosing the e-filing route, you will benefit in the following ways:
· Faster processing of refunds which can then be deposited directly into your account.
· The tax software effectively eliminates most human errors.
· You will have tracked, confirmed proof of your tax filing.
· More convenient than the traditional method of mailing your tax returns.
· You will have more payment options since federal and most state departments will accept electronic payment using major credit, debit cards an even eCheck.
Free Tax Filing Tips
· Make sure you have all your tax information on hand, such as a copy of last year’s tax return and your W-2s, 1099s, etc.
· Know your adjusted gross income (AGI). You can check your previous year’s tax return for an estimate.
· You can sign e-file federal tax returns electronically, but this signature must be officially authorized.
· You do not have to download your e-file tax materials as the software will be available on the Free File company’s website and will be filed from there. All these sites have the latest encryption programs to protect your privacy.
· Be aware that you can only use software prepared and filed through IRS.gov and affiliated companies.
Free Help with e-Filing – The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA)
This program offers free help to low to moderate income ($49,000 or below) earners who cannot prepare and file their own taxes by themselves. Certified volunteers will assist in preparing your basic tax returns and file these returns by e-file.
VITA sites are located at local community and local centers, libraries, schools and other locations participating in the program. Most of these locations will offer Free Tax Filing.
The above information shows you why the IRS backed free tax filing method is the easiest and safest solution for submitting your yearly federal tax returns to Uncle Sam.
About the Author: Bob Goren is an independent advisor on free tax filing in the US.