Income Tax Return Preparation for Do-It-Yourselfers


Calculator & Calendar Tax DayIt’s that time of year we all dread—tax time. With April 15 not far off, your BBB brings you some helpful tax information from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The good news is that the IRS is again offering its Free File Program that allows taxpayers to use free tax software programs and to file their tax return electronically.

If your 2013 income was $58,000 or below, you may use the Free File Software. There are 14 commercial tax software companies that make their products available for free, only through Free File at IRS.gov. Each company sets its own eligibility criteria, generally based on income, age, state residency, eligibility for the Earned Income Tax Credit and military status. Once at the company’s website, review their information to make sure it meets your needs. For example, some offer free state tax returns, and some charge a fee. If you feel you need help deciding which software to use, the IRS has a helpful tool at Help Me Find Free File Software.

Here are some important things to know about the IRS Free File program.

1. Only taxpayers with a 2013 Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) of $58,000 or less are eligible.

2. Other eligibility criteria may include your age, state, eligibility for the Earned Income Tax Credit, and military status.

3. This program is only for federal tax returns. If you want to prepare your state tax form, some of the companies will charge a fee, and some may not support a particular tax form you need to file.

4. Once you have selected a tax software company in the Free File program, you may begin entering in your tax information, and the software prepares your federal tax return and e-files it for free.

5. MOST IMPORTANT, TO QUALIFY FOR YOUR TAXES TO BE PREPARED FOR FREE, YOU MUST BEGIN YOUR FREE FILE RETURN ON THE IRS WEBSITE at http://www.irs.gov/efile/article/0,,id=118986,00.html?portlet=104.  DO NOT GO DIRECTLY TO THE PRIVATE SECTOR COMPANY’S WEBSITE OR YOU MAY BE CHARGED

If your AGI is over $58,000, you are eligible to use the Free File Fillable Forms, but you have to prepare your own tax return.  This option does not offer state tax returns and performs only basic calculations. To see what forms are available to use in the Free File Fillable Forms program, go to http://www.irs.gov/uac/List-of-Available-Free-File-Fillable-Forms. There are some limitations to filing electronically using the Free File Fillable Forms. To see the limitations, go to http://www.irs.gov/uac/Free-File-Fillable-Form-Constraints.

For more information you can trust, visit bbb.org/evansville.

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Jackie is the Operations and Education Foundation Assistant with the BBB. She assists consumers with business inquiries, and does presentations to senior groups and high school students. She is a regular contributor to the blog.

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