With the new July 15 tax-filing deadline looming large, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) wants Americans to know that they’re not being left out in the woods and that there are tools and services aplenty to help them file and meet their responsibility as a taxpayer.
At the top of the service list is the reminder that the IRS provides tax help 24/7 online at IRS.gov. It doesn’t matter if a taxpayer has a question about how to make a payment or if they’d like an extension; the IRS thinks its website can help last-minute filers on just about everything related to taxes.
Interactive Tax Assistant
In ConsumerAffairs’ review of the site, one of the better tools the agency offers is the Interactive Tax Assistant, which answers many tax questions. For example, taxpayers who encountered health-related expenses during the COVID-19 pandemic are likely to find the answer they need by typing in “health” in the tool’s search bar.
The IRS can also point taxpayers to a full range of expert help -- be it a qualified tax professional, certified public accountants, or tax attorneys. The IRS encourages people who need the help of a tax professional to visit a special page on IRS.gov.
Prepare and file taxes for free
There’s a likelihood that current pandemic conditions might put taxpayers in a bind, but the IRS reminds consumers that they can both prepare and file taxes online for free. To help, the IRS offers a list of providers, and ConsumerAffairs also has a full list of tax preparation software with actual consumer reviews.
The requirements are simple:
Taxpayers with income of $69,000 or less can use IRS Free File to find free tax preparation software.
Taxpayers who have incomes above $69,000 and are confident with doing their own taxes can use Free File Fillable Forms for free.
Taxpayers can use commercial tax prep software to prepare and file taxes through IRS approved electronic channels.
Taxpayers can use an authorized e-File provider accepted by the IRS’ electronic filing program.
Military members and qualified veterans can use a free online tax service provided by the Department of Defense and Military OneSource called MilTax. Special rules may apply for some military personnel if they are: serving in a combat zone or a qualified hazardous duty area; or living outside the United States
One important heads-up: the IRS is experiencing delays in processing paper tax returns due to limited staffing, another reason that taxpayers should go the electronic route to file their taxes.
If a taxpayer has had a change in family size, bought a new home, etc., their annual withholding is likely to occur. The IRS recommends that anyone who’s in that boat do a Paycheck Checkup.
Figuring out estimated taxes
There’s a sizable number of taxpayers who are self-employed, investors, live off of interest, dividends, alimony, or have rental property income coming in.
The IRS reminds anyone who’s in that position to make sure those amounts are reported. Other people who are in the same boat include those who received a year-end or holiday bonus in 2019, those who received stock dividends, those who profited from virtual currency (e.g. Bitcoin), or those who had some sort of capital gain.
Form 1040-ES, Estimated Tax for Individuals, includes instructions to help those particular taxpayers figure their estimated taxes. If they want to pay electronically, they should go to IRS.gov/payments.
Additionally, the agency offers two free electronic payment options where taxpayers can schedule estimated federal tax payments up to 30 days in advance by using IRS Direct Pay. They can also schedule payments up to 365 days in advance with the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS).
Can’t find all your tax documents?
If you can’t find all your paperwork, the IRS may be able to help you out. Taxpayers looking for tax documents can go to IRS.gov/account to access information about their federal tax account. The information you might find there includes tax records, payment history, and key tax return information for the most recent return as it was originally filed. It’s a free service and authorization shouldn’t take longer than 15 minutes.
Speeding up your refund
If a taxpayer qualifies for a tax refund and would like it ASAP, the IRS says the absolute fastest way is to file electronically and use direct deposit.
However, there are a few forewarnings for those taxpayers:
On average, nine out of 10 tax refunds are issued within 21 days or sooner.
If you want to keep tabs on the status of your refund, the best way to check is the Where's My Refund? tool -- available both on IRS.gov and the IRS2Go mobile app. The Where’s My Refund? tool is updated once a day, usually overnight.
Refunds can be divided into up to three accounts.
Need more time to file?
If you just can’t make things happen by July 15, the IRS understands and is willing to give individual taxpayers who need additional time the option of requesting a filing extension to Oct. 15 in one of two ways:
Submitting Form 4868 through their tax professional, tax software, or by using the Free File link on IRS.gov.
Filing an electronic payment with Direct Pay, Electronic Federal Tax Payment System or by debit, credit card, or digital wallet options and selecting Form 4868 or extension as the payment type.
IMPORTANT: An extension to file is NOT an extension to pay. Taxes are still due by July 15.