Tax day is almost upon us. If you’ve never filed income tax returns before, it may seem confusing and overwhelming. In this guide, we share three ways to file your income tax returns. We also look at some common tax scams in the US and share tips to avoid becoming a victim. Let’s get started.
3 Ways to File Income Tax Return Form
IRS Free File
Free File is a service that lets you prepare and file your income tax returns online. It includes software made free to eligible citizens through a partnership between the IRS and tax software companies.
You may already have a 1099 and/or W-2 form. Free File lets you enter the information from the relevant form to do your tax returns. You start by visiting the IRS Free File Guided Tax Preparation Options page. There are multiple offers from different companies for you to choose from based on your AGI, age, and other criteria.
Free File does all the math for you as you enter your information, so you don’t have to worry about errors. It also automatically finds all the tax credits and deductions you’re eligible for based on the information you entered.
Free File programs are regulated and safe. Information you provide to Free File providers is safe from unauthorized access and is not disclosed or used for any purpose other than tax return preparation. However, make sure you access these services through the IRS website. All available offers are accessible there.
IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program
If you’re facing difficulty e-filing your income tax returns yourself, the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program can help. VITA is available to people who generally make less than $60,000, are elderly, are disabled, or do not speak English well.
If you qualify, an IRS-trained volunteer with help you prepare and e-file your tax return. Assistance is provided at VITA and TCE sites located at community centers, libraries, malls, schools, etc. You can find a provider near you using the IRS VITATCE/ Locator Tool. Learn more about the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program at the IRS website.
Hiring a Tax Professional
If you need help filing your tax returns and VITA isn’t feasible or desirable for any reason, you can hire a tax professional to do your taxes for you. However, make sure you trust the person you’re hiring.
Tax preparer fraud is one of the most common types of tax fraud. Many people suffer financial losses for choosing an incompetent or deceitful tax preparer. Also, you are responsible for the information on your tax return forms whether you file them yourself or with the help of someone else. Here are some tips for choosing a reputable tax preparer from the IRS.
Avoiding Tax Scams
Tax scams attempt to steal your personal information or get access to your tax refund. There are countless variations of tax scams out there. Here are some tips to avoid being a victim.
Beware Of the Common Tax Scams
IRS won’t approach you via email, text messages, phone, or social media to ask for money. Many tax scammers impersonate the IRS and say that you owe taxes. They make threats such as having you arrested or deported if you don’t pay the taxes immediately. They pressure you and evoke a sense of emergency so you don’t have time to think or seek advice.
Some tax scammers claim that the IRS owes you some extra refund, or that your social security number has been suspended. They ask you to “confirm” your personal and/or financial information, which they either use themselves or sell on the dark web.
Thousands of Americans fall victim to tax scams every year and lose millions of dollars. IRS has just recently finalized the annual Dirty Dozen tax scams list for 2023. Educate yourself about these scams and have your loved ones go through the list as well.
Stay Protected On the Internet
Tax scammers can approach you via malicious websites or include links in emails that download malware into your device. Using an internet service with security features can limit your exposure to these scams. These ISPs have a blacklist of thousands of websites that are known to have been used for malicious activity.
Filing your tax return has been made simple and easy with IRS Free File software that does the calculations for you. However, you should be aware of tax scams and only choose professional preparers that you trust.
Disclaimer: This article is prepared for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute or be relied upon for tax, accounting, or legal advice.