IRS kicks off 2020 tax filing season
The Internal Revenue Service has successfully opened the 2020 tax filing season as the agency begins accepting and processing federal tax returns for tax year 2019. The deadline to file a 2019 tax return and pay any tax owed is Wednesday, April 15, 2020.
Revised 2019 Form 1040
Using feedback from taxpayers and the tax professional community, IRS revised the Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, for tax year 2019. Taxpayers will use fewer schedules to supplement the base Form 1040 as six schedules were consolidated into three numbered schedules.
In 2019, taxpayers who engaged in a transaction involving virtual currency will need to file Schedule 1, Additional Income and Adjustments To Income. Taxpayers should maintain, for example, records documenting receipts, sales, exchanges or other dispositions of virtual currency and the fair market value of the virtual currency.
Free help preparing and filing taxes electronically
The IRS strongly encourages people to file their tax returns electronically and choose direct deposit for faster refunds. Filing electronically reduces tax return errors as the tax software does the calculations, flags common errors and prompts taxpayers for missing information.
The IRS supports free online and in-person tax preparation options for qualifying taxpayers through IRS Free File online or free tax help from trained volunteers at community sites around the country.
Taxpayers with incomes that were $69,000 or less last year – and that’s most taxpayers – can use IRS Free File now through October 15. Free File is a public-private partnership between the Internal Revenue Service and Free File Inc. (FFI), a consortium of tax software providers who make their Free File products available at IRS.gov/freefile.
Free File is just one way the IRS provides free tax preparation options to taxpayers through a partnership model. Taxpayers wanting more personal help can visit one of thousands of community volunteer sites through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program or Tax Counseling for the Elderly offered by AARP. The IRS partners with community organizations and AARP to train volunteers to prepare free returns for taxpayers.
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offers free tax help to people who generally make $56,000 or less, persons with disabilities and limited English-speaking taxpayers who need help preparing their own tax returns. IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals.
In addition to VITA, the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program offers free tax help for all taxpayers, particularly those who are 60 and older, specializing in questions about pensions and retirement-related issues unique to seniors. The IRS-certified volunteers who provide tax counseling are often retired individuals associated with non-profit organizations that receive grants from the IRS.
Finding a reputable tax professional; IRS.gov can help
The IRS also reminds taxpayers that a trusted tax professional can prepare their tax return and provide helpful information and advice. Tips for choosing a return preparer and details about national tax professional groups are available on IRS.gov.
No matter who prepares a federal tax return, by signing the return, the taxpayer becomes legally responsible for the accuracy of all information included.
Most refunds sent in less than 21 days; however, some require further review and take longer
Just as each tax return is unique and individual, so is each taxpayer’s refund. There are a few things taxpayers should keep in mind if they are waiting on their refund but hear or see on social media that other taxpayers have already received theirs.
Different factors can affect the timing of a taxpayer’s refund after the IRS receives the return. Also, remember to take into consideration the time it takes for the financial institution to post the refund to the taxpayer’s account or to receive a check in the mail.
Even though the IRS issues most refunds in less than 21 days, some tax returns require additional review and take longer to process than others. This may be necessary when a return has errors, is incomplete or is affected by identity theft or fraud. The IRS will contact taxpayers by mail when more information is needed to process a return.
The IRS reminds taxpayers that, by law, the IRS cannot issue refunds claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) before mid-February. This applies to the entire refund − even the portion not associated with the EITC or ACTC. The IRS expects most EITC/ACTC related refunds to be available in taxpayer bank accounts or on debit cards by the first week of March, if the taxpayer chose direct deposit and there are no other issues with the tax return.
After refunds leave the IRS, it takes additional time for them to be processed and for financial institutions to accept and deposit the refunds to bank accounts and products. The IRS reminds taxpayers many financial institutions do not process payments on weekends or holidays, which can affect when refunds reach taxpayers.
Refund information will generally be available within 24 hours after the IRS acknowledges receipt of an electronically filed return on the Where’s My Refund? tool on IRS.gov and the IRS2Go phone app. These tools will be updated with projected deposit dates for most early EITC and ACTC refund filers by February 22, so those filers will not see an update to their refund status date on Where’s My Refund? or through their software packages until then. The IRS, tax preparers and tax software will not have additional information on refund dates. Where’s My Refund? is the best way to check the status of a refund.
Sign and validate electronically filed tax returns
The IRS also reminds taxpayers that they should keep copies of their prior-year tax returns for at least three years. Taxpayers who are using the same tax software they used last year will not need to enter prior-year information to electronically sign their 2019 tax return.
Taxpayers who are using a tax software product for the first time will need their adjusted gross income from their 2018 tax return to file electronically. Review these steps to validate and sign an electronically filed return.
IRS offers help and online tools for taxpayers
The IRS reminds taxpayers they have a variety of options to get help filing and preparing their tax return on IRS.gov, the official IRS website. Taxpayers can find answers to their tax questions and resolve tax issues online.
Refund information will generally be available within 24 hours after the IRS acknowledges receipt of an electronically filed return on the Where’s My Refund? tool on IRS.gov and the IRS2Go phone app.
Taxpayers can go to View Your Account Information to securely access information about their federal tax account. They can view the amount they owe, pay online or set up an online payment agreement; access their tax records online; review the past 24 months of payment history; and view key tax return information for the current year as filed. Visit IRS.gov/secureaccess to review the required identity authentication process.