The IRS urged low- and moderate-income individuals and families, especially those who don’t normally file a tax return, to use IRS Free File to prepare their own federal tax return, e-file it and get a refund – all for free.
This year’s federal tax filing deadline for individuals has been postponed to May 17 from April 15.
Free File offers free access to brand-name tax software to anyone who makes $72,000 or less. Already this year, more than 2.96 million individuals and couples have used this online service to file returns and get their share of these valuable benefits.
Available only at IRS.gov, Free File offers people experiencing homelessness, students who are now on their own, low-and moderate-income families and others a fast and easy way to access these benefits. All anyone needs to reach Free File is access to a computer or similar device. No computer? No problem. IRS Free File products support mobile phone access too.
Never has Free File been as important as it is right now. The IRS delivered two rounds of Economic Impact Payments to eligible people. The first payment was up to $1,200 per person and $500 per qualifying child. The second payment was up to $600 per eligible person and $600 per qualifying child.
People who did not receive the full amount of the first or second payments can claim the additional amount they are due as the Recovery Rebate Credit when they file their 2020 tax return.
And that’s where Free File comes in. It’s a free way to claim the full amount of tax benefits, including the Recovery Rebate Credit, and ensure that eligible people get their refund. See the special section on IRS.gov – Claiming the 2020 Recovery Rebate Credit if you aren’t required to file a tax return – for more information. Look for a Free File product with “no minimum income” and file electronically and choose direct deposit.
Free File is also a great way to take advantage of two other tax benefits that help workers and families –the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC). Under a special COVID-related rule, people who were laid off during part or all of 2020 will often still qualify for these benefits. That’s because if they worked during 2019, they can choose to use their 2019 earned income to figure these credits, as long as it was higher than it was in 2020.
Through Free File, leading tax software providers make their online products available for free as part of a 19-year partnership with the IRS. There are nine products in English and one in Spanish. Visit IRS.gov/freefile for details. In addition, MilTax, available free through the Department of Defense, offers a similar online tax-preparation service to members of the military.
Because Free File returns are filed electronically, the service offers everyone a great way to get their money quickly. This is especially true for anyone who chooses to have their refund deposited directly into a savings or checking account.
The IRS urges everyone to consider taking advantage of the speed and convenience of Free File. This includes:
- People experiencing homelessness. As long as they are not someone’s dependent, chances are they still qualify for the Recovery Rebate Credit even if they have little or no income. They can still use Free File even if their only access to the Internet is through a smartphone. Look for a Free File product with “no minimum income.”
- Individuals who were claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return in 2018 or 2019, but who cannot be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s return in 2020, may now be eligible to claim a 2020 Recovery Rebate Credit and must file a 2020 tax return.
- One spouse with an ITIN: Under a new law enacted in December 2020, a married couple filing a joint return now may be eligible for a partial credit when only one spouse has a Social Security number valid for employment. If a couple did not receive one or both Economic Impact Payments because one of them did not have a Social Security number valid for employment, they may be eligible to claim a 2020 Recovery Rebate Credit and must file a 2020 tax return. There is an exception if one spouse is a member of the U.S. Armed Forces.
- Qualifying child: Families who had a baby or adopted a child during 2020 did not receive a first or second Economic Impact Payment for that qualifying child. They may be eligible to claim a 2020 Recovery Rebate Credit and must file a 2020 tax return.
- Low- and moderate-income workers and working families who don’t normally file a return: Historically, many of these families miss out on the EITC and ACTC because they don’t file.
Check out the A Closer Look column for more information on how Free File can help people get all available tax benefits.
For those who are not comfortable doing their own return, IRS-trained community volunteers offer tax help at more than 11,000 tax help sites, nationwide. To find the nearest site, visit IRS.gov/volunteers, or call 800-906-9887.
Posted by Jessica Ji, Associate Editor, Wealth Strategies Journal.