Did you know that, with the help of the IRS, you can file your 2020 tax return, possibly for free?
Now that it’s the second month of a new year, you may be eager to do your 2020 taxes, especially since the IRS recently began accepting and processing returns. Why not do that electronically on your tablet or smartphone, even if you are used to filing a paper return? No app is required to file, and electronic filing will help the IRS avoid paper processing in this time of COVID-19 and potentially avoid delays in you getting a refund.
This is what you need to know.
The IRS is ready to help you prepare your return. You may even qualify for free help through the IRS’ online Free File offering (tinyurl.com/y7lq2mn2), which includes electronic filing and even direct deposit of tax refunds the IRS owes you (tinyurl.com/y8tv3g42). To be eligible for free help, if you had an adjusted gross income (AGI) of $72,000 or less in 2020, you will have at least one free offering you can take advantage of. The service is not limited to simple tax returns; major tax forms can be filed electronically.
Free File is set up by the IRS with the help of brand-name tax software providers (called “Free File partners”), such as TaxSlayer, TurboTax and 1040Now. You’ll want to review your choices of different software vendors by using the lookup tool (tinyurl.com/s3yzqwz) on the IRS.gov website.
For example, to be eligible for TaxSlayer, you would need to have an AGI of $72,000 or less and be age 51 or younger (although you can be any age if you are eligible for the earned income tax credit, or EITC). TaxSlayer can file from any state of residence, and it can handle state income tax filings for 22 states and the District of Columbia.
The lookup tool will help you find whether a tax software provider also offers an income tax filing for the state you live in. For example, if you live in Georgia and have an AGI of $60,000, you will have up to three tax preparers to choose from for state income tax. Note that for some of the providers in the Free File Program, there is no free state tax preparation.
If you are a veteran, check out MilTax online software (tinyurl.com/yaavwa8f), offered through the U.S. Department of Defense, where certain veterans can do their taxes regardless of how much they made in 2020.
Let’s say you are ready to jump into Free File using your computer, smartphone or tablet. How do you do that? Use your device to log on to the Free File page of the IRS website (tinyurl.com/y7lq2mn2), and click the box titled “Choose an IRS Free File Offer.” On the next page, select “Start Lookup Tool.” From there, you’ll answer questions about your filing status, age, AGI, earned income tax credit, state of residence and military pay (if any), and then it will give you the results. If you want to do a quick scan of possible offers, you can fill out fewer details by selecting the “Browse All” link.
Before leaving the subject of tax returns, let’s talk about the economic impact payment. If you did not receive the payment that you are eligible for, it may be that you don’t normally file a tax return. If that’s you, take advantage of Free File as soon as possible to file a 2020 return and claim a Recovery Rebate Credit. According to the IRS (tinyurl.com/yb9bl29l), by filing electronically, “the tax software will ask you questions about your income, credits and deductions and will help you figure your Recovery Rebate Credit.”
Happy income tax filing!
On another note, if you are interested in the basics of retirement investing, join me for a virtual presentation, “Financial Planning for Retirement I: Plan for Good Times and Bad,” on Wednesday, March 3, at 1 p.m. EST, sponsored by the Greenwich (Connecticut) Library. To register, go to tinyurl.com/y79cp37l or contact Yang Wang, 203-622-7924, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Julie Jason, JD, LLM, a personal money manager (Jackson, Grant Investment Advisers Inc. of Stamford, Connecticut) and award-winning author, welcomes your questions/comments (email@example.com). Please visit www.juliejason.com.
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