With the 2014 filing season now officially open tax payers can go to IRS.gov and leverage a number of tools that enables them to file their taxes for free, figure how much in additional tax credits they can get and even plan for their 2014 taxes. The IRS expects to receive more than 148 million individual tax returns this year, and more than four out of five returns are now filed electronically. About three out of four filers typically get refunds, and the IRS issues more than nine in ten of these refunds in less than 21 days. Last year, taxpayers received an average refund of $2,744.
Online Tools at the IRS
EITC Assistant – People can see if they qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) by answering a few questions using this online tool. Eligible taxpayers can also use another helpful online resource, the VITA Site Locator tool to locate one of nearly 13,000 community-based volunteer tax sites consisting of over 90,000 volunteers that can help them file their return for free.
Tele-Tax – provides information on individual and business tax topics. For example, help taxpayers see if they qualify for various tax benefits, such as the Child Tax Credit and Additional Child Tax Credit for eligible families, the American Opportunity Tax Credit for parents and college students, the saver’s credit for low-and moderate-income workers saving for retirement and energy credits for homeowners making qualifying energy-saving home improvements. The automated IRS services can also help home-based businesses check out the new simplified option for claiming the home office deduction, a straightforward computation that allows eligible taxpayers to claim $5 per square foot, up to a maximum of $1,500, instead of filling out a 43-line form (Form 8829) with often complex calculations.
Free File which allows free tax filing options for qualifying tax payers offers two free electronic filing options: brand-name tax software or online Fillable Forms. Taxpayers who make $58,000 or less can choose free options from 14 commercial software providers. There’s no income limit for the second option,
Where’s My Refund? is a tool that enables taxpayers to track the status of their refund. Initial information will normally be available within 24 hours after the IRS receives the taxpayer’s e-filed return or four weeks after the taxpayer mails a paper return to the IRS. The system updates every 24 hours, usually overnight, so there’s no need to check more often.
For taxpayers whose concern isn’t a refund, but rather, a tax bill they can’t pay, the Online Payment Agreement tool can help them determine whether they qualify for an installment agreement with the IRS. And those whose tax obligation is even more serious, the Offer in Compromise Pre-Qualifier can help them determine if they qualify for an offer in compromise, an agreement with the IRS that settles their tax liability for less than the full amount owed.
Another useful year-round tool, the IRS Withholding Calculator, helps employees make sure the amount of income tax taken out of their pay is neither too high nor too low. This tool can be particularly useful to taxpayers who, after filling out their tax returns, find that the refund or balance due was higher than expected