5 things to know as filing season opens

That is an excerpt from the Private Finance workforce’s weekly Twitter Area, “This week, your wallet.” Try the newest episode here, and tune in each Friday at 11 a.m. ET.

Tax season kicked off Jan. 23. The IRS expects taxpayers to file greater than 168 million returns, most earlier than the April 18 deadline.

Listed here are some key things to know earlier than filing, in accordance to CNBC’s Sharon Epperson, senior private finance correspondent, and Kate Dore, a private finance reporter.

1. Filing — and tax assist — could also be free

Sure taxpayers can leverage free (and infrequently little-used) sources when filing a return.

The IRS Free File program presents free, guided tax preparation on-line. This system, delivered through a public-private partnership, is out there to taxpayers with an annual adjusted gross earnings of $73,000 or much less.

Free File is out there to 70% of taxpayers, however (*5*) — and so they might inadvertently pay to file a return.

The IRS additionally presents Fillable Forms, that are digital federal tax varieties you possibly can fill out and file on-line free of charge. It is primarily a pencil-and-paper choice for do-it-yourselfers.

Extra from Good Tax Planning:

This is a take a look at extra tax-planning information.

You may additionally be eligible for free tax help at a neighborhood Volunteer Revenue Tax Help Heart, typically obtainable to individuals who make $60,000 or much less, individuals with disabilities or these with restricted English. These 60 years and older can even get assist through Tax Counseling for the Aged.

You may find a close-by VITA or TCE web site on the IRS website.

2. When to file a tax return

Generally, you must file as quickly as attainable — to get a sooner refund and scale back the percentages of a fraudster claiming a refund in your title through identity theft.

However, you need all the relevant tax forms to file, and they may not all be available yet. You can use last year’s tax return to get a sense of what forms you may need. They may be mailed to you or available online. (Aside from tax forms, be sure to have receipts handy for relevant tax deductions and credits.)

If you owe a tax bill — and are concerned you don’t have the money to pay right now — you can delay submitting a return, generally up to April 18. At that point, file a return and pay at least a portion of your bill to reduce penalties.

3. Timing and amount of tax refunds

In general, you should get a refund within 21 days.

To avoid delays, file an electronic, error-free tax return with direct deposit for payments. Don’t send a paper return or ask for a refund check.

Double check your return for key details and basic mistakes such as typos in your name, address, date of birth, banking details and Social Security number. Mistakes can delay refunds.

The IRS has warned that tax refunds may be smaller this year. Pandemic-era tax relief — like enhancements to the child tax credit, child and dependent care credit, and earned income tax credit — are no longer available.

4. What to do with a tax refund

It may be wise to save — and not spend — your refund this year. Having a bigger financial cushion is important in an environment of economic uncertainty.

Taxpayers can earn roughly 3% to 4% on that cash via an online bank offering a high-yield savings account. They may also wish to contribute to a pre-tax or Roth individual retirement account.

5. Smoother customer service

Those with tax questions may experience smoother IRS customer service this year relative to the recent past.

The Inflation Reduction Act boosted funding for the agency, which has begun rolling out changes like hiring 5,000 new customer service reps and new technology allowing people to respond to some notices online.

Last year, just 13% of people who called in reached a representative. The IRS hopes to bring phone wait time down to 15 minutes.

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