Today is the first day before the opening of the 2014 tax season Jan. 31 when many taxpayers can access Free File software, according to the Internal Revenue Service. Fourteen commercial software companies began offering their Free File tax prep products at no cost today. They are available on the IRS website.
Taxpayers can complete and e-file their tax returns now, and the Free File companies will hold them until Jan. 31, when the IRS begins accepting returns. The agency delayed the start of the filing season due to critical system testing following the federal government shutdown last year.
“Many tax preparers and tax software companies are now open for return preparation, including Free File,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said in a statement.
There’s no advantage to filing by paper, the commissioner said. “If you want to save money and time, just use Free File to prepare and e-file your federal return at no charge,” he said.
Free File, a public-private partnership, is available to more than 100 million individuals and families that earn $58,000 or less a year — 70 percent of taxpayers. Last year, more than 183,000 New York taxpayers used Free File to prepare their returns.
Nearly 40 million taxpayers have used Free File since it debuted in 2003. They have saved more than $1.2 billion by doing so, according to an IRS estimate.
Free File is for federal returns, but most companies also offer state tax return preparation, some for free.
Taxpayers who earn more than $58,000 a year can select the “Free Fillable Forms” button on the IRS website. The product will be available starting Jan. 31.
Other services the IRS provides include “Where’s My Refund,” YouTube videos with tax tips, and additional ways of getting information. The fastest way to get a tax refund is by e-filing and choosing direct deposit. After the IRS begins processing the returns, it expects to issue more than 90 percent of refunds in fewer than 20 days.