The Internal Revenue Service is advising taxpayers that now is a good time to decide how to prepare and file their 2018 tax return. The IRS has updated its Get Ready page with steps to take now.
This is the eighth and final in a series of reminders designed to help taxpayers Get Ready for the upcoming tax filing season when tax reform changes will start affecting the returns most people file.
For taxpayers who filed paper returns in the past and are concerned about changes to popular tax forms, 2019 may be the year to e-file. Whether self-prepared, completed by a tax professional or with the help of a volunteer at a community tax help site, using tax software is convenient, safe and a secure way to prepare and e-file a tax return.
Free tax preparation
More than 70 percent of taxpayers qualify for free tax software through IRS Free File. This special service is available only on IRS.gov or through theIRS2Go mobile app. The app allows taxpayers to use a smartphone or tablet to prepare and file their tax returns.
IRS Free File lets taxpayers who earned less than $66,000 prepare and e-file a return for free. Go to IRS.gov and click on the ‘File’ tab for options for using commercial tax software. Those who earned more than $66,000 are still eligible for Free File Fillable Forms, the electronic version of IRS paper forms.
Free tax preparation and e-filing by IRS-certified volunteers is available at thousands of Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (VITA and TCE) sites nationwide. VITA offers free tax return preparation to taxpayers who generally earn $55,000 or less. The TCE program is mainly for people age 60 or older and focuses on tax issues unique to seniors. AARP participates in the TCE program and helps any qualified taxpayer who needs assistance.
- To find the closest VITA site, visit IRS.gov and search for “VITA” or call 800-906-9887.
- To locate the nearest AARP Tax-Aide site, visit aarp.org or call 888-227-7669.
Paid tax preparers
Paid tax return preparers include enrolled agents, certified public accountants, and attorneys, as well as others without a professional credential who provide outstanding and professional tax service. All paid tax preparers must have a Preparer Tax Identification Number, or PTIN. Paid preparers must sign the return and include their PTIN. The IRS offers tips to help taxpayers choose a tax return preparer wisely.
- The Choosing a Tax Professional page has information about tax preparer credentials and qualifications.
- The IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications is a listing of preparers who have a professional credential or participate in the IRS Annual Filing Season Program.
The IRS urges taxpayers to avoid dishonest preparers. Common warning signs of an unscrupulous preparer include only taking cash payments, basing the fee on the size of the tax refund or not signing the tax return. A “ghost preparer” may include fake claims to get a larger refund but makes the return appear to be self-prepared. The IRS stresses that by signing the return, the taxpayer becomes legally responsible for its accuracy, no matter who prepared it.
Taxpayers using a software product for the first time may need their Adjusted Gross Income amount from their prior-year tax return to verify their identity. Taxpayers can learn more about how to verify their identity and electronically sign tax returns at Validating Your Electronically Filed Tax Return.