IRS Free File program open for taxpayers to get a jump start on tax season

Tax season doesn’t officially start until later this month

The IRS has not yet begun accepting returns for the coming tax season, but eager individuals eligible to use the agency’s free tax filing software can now get a jumpstart on their forms.

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The Free File program is officially open, the IRS announced on Friday. Individuals with incomes of $69,000 or less are eligible to file for free through the program — a partnership with third-party preparers. About 70 percent of taxpayers are eligible to use it, according to the IRS.

“Free File online products offer free federal tax return preparation, free electronic filing and free direct deposit of refunds to help get your money faster,” IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig said in a statement. “The IRS has worked to improve the program for this year, and we encourage taxpayers to visit IRS.gov, and consider using the Free File option to get a head start on tax season.”

IRS UPDATES RULES TO PROTECT FREE FILING OPTIONS FOR LOW-INCOME TAXPAYERS

SOME COMPANIES STEERED LOW-INCOME TAXPAYERS AWAY FROM FREE FILE OPTIONS: REPORT 

Third-party partners for this tax season include 1040Now, Inc., ezTaxReturn.com in English and Spanish, FileYourTaxes.com, Free tax Returns.com, H&R Block, Intuit, On-Line Taxes Inc., Tax ACT, TaxHawk Inc. and TaxSlayer in English and Spanish.

Most companies also provide a special offer for active-duty military personnel.

Tax season officially opens on Jan. 27.

The earlier someone files tax returns, the sooner they can expect to receive their refunds if they are owed one. According to estimates provided by Forbes, a person who filed their taxes on Jan. 27 could probably expect to receive a direct deposit refund around Feb. 7, or a check in the mail around Feb. 14.

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The Free File program was called into question after ProPublica reported that some companies were engaging in deceptive practices and obscuring their free products from organic searches.

Turns out the claims appear to be true. The report showed five of the 12 members of the program used a coding device to keep their Free File landing pages out of organic searches. However, engagement still increased at four of five of those partners.

According to the IRS, nearly 57 million taxpayers have used the program since its debut in 2003.

However, the IRS may soon create a free tax filing program of its own. It recently eliminated a clause from its memorandum of understanding with its third-party partners that prevented it from competing in the market. Some lawmakers – including Massachusetts Democrat Sen. Elizabeth Warren – have advocated for the agency to do so.

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