As taxpayers look ahead to the April 17 filing deadline this year, they’ll consider how to prepare their returns. Taxpayers have several options:
• Prepare their own return:
o E-file — Taxpayers can use commercial tax software to prepare and file their tax returns. The software uses a question and answer format that makes doing taxes easier. After the taxpayer responds to the questions, the software selects the appropriate tax forms and does the calculations automatically. Once complete, the software securely transmits the return to the IRS.
o Free File — Seventy percent of taxpayers have an adjusted gross income of $66,000 or less and are therefore eligible to file using free, brand-name software. Taxpayers can find the right software for them at IRS.gov.
o Paper Forms — Free File Fillable Forms have no age, income or residency restrictions for taxpayers who are comfortable completing a paper return. Taxpayers can also find forms on IRS.gov, fill them out in Adobe Acrobat, and then print and mail them to the IRS. Taxpayers may also fill out their forms by hand after they print them. Taxpayers who mail a paper Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, should know that it can take six to eight weeks for the IRS to process their return.
• Free Volunteer Tax Preparation — The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly programs provide free tax preparation help for qualifying taxpayers.
o Volunteer Income Tax Assistance: This program is also known as VITA. IRS-certified volunteers provide free, basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to eligible taxpayers who generally earn $54,000 or less.
o Tax Counseling for the Elderly: TCE is mainly for people age 60 or older, but offers service to all taxpayers. The program focuses on tax issues unique to seniors. AARP participates in the TCE program through AARP Tax-Aide.
• Tax Preparers — Professional tax preparers across the country provide paid tax preparation services. Taxpayers can visit the Choosing a Tax Professional page on IRS.gov for tips on choosing a preparer who fits their needs.
All taxpayers should keep a copy of their tax return. Taxpayers using a software product for the first time may need their adjusted gross income amount from their prior-year tax return to verify their identity. Taxpayers can learn more about how to verify their identity and electronically sign tax returns at Validating Your Electronically Filed Tax Return.