Options available for tax filing

Whether you dread it or depend on it, just don’t miss it.

The first few months of any year bring with them a need to look back and get your fiscal houses in order as tax time again rears its head.

This year, the chance to get a jump on your federal returns didn’t begin until Jan. 31 when the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS’s) filing season opened due to systems testing following last year’s government shutdown.

For those prepared to submit, the IRS is once again opening up the opportunity to file online through the “Free File” program at www.irs.gov/freefile.

Through the program, fourteen companies provide their software for free use in preparing and submitting tax filings. The government also offers online fillable forms through the program which allow tax payers to prepare their own returns using standard IRS forms and submit them online.

“There is absolutely no advantage to filing by paper,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said in a Jan. 17 release. “If you want to save money and time, just use ‘Free File’ to prepare and e-file your federal return at no cost.”

“Free File” isn’t for everyone, there are income limitations, but the IRS estimates it is available to more than 100 million individuals and families, or 70 percent of filers. Filing through “Free File” is limited to those with income of $58,000 or less in 2013.

Which particular software programs are available to you is determined by income, place of residency and age; but anyone who meets the income qualifications will find at least one program available.

There is no income limit to use the fillable forms program.

Fillable form will aid with calculations, but does not provide step-by-step assistance for taxpayers.

Once submitted, the IRS processes and issues returns for 90 percent of filings within 21 days.

The IRS’s “Where’s My Refund” program tracks refunds after filing.

For state returns, the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue is also offering the option of filing online for the first time.

State options mirror federal ones and provide the opportunity to file both federal and state returns in one place.

Like the IRS, “PA Free File” offers the option of filing using participant software or through submitting fillable forms.

Income limitations are set at the same thresholds as the federal program, and those making over the limitation can also utilize the fillable forms.

The state rogram is available at www.pafreefile.com.