7 Helpful Hacks to Navigate a More Modern IRS & Take Advantage of Free IRS Tools & Resources

Did you know the IRS provides FREE online tools to help you file your taxes? If you’re a family with a lower income, the IRS Free File program means you may be able to file online completely free. But regardless of income, the IRS offers multiple online resources to simplify tax season and help you maximize your refund.

Here are 7 hacks to help you navigate a more modern IRS and take advantage of their free tools and resources:

1. Set up your online account with the IRS

Processing tax returns and other documents electronically is usually faster, easier, and more reliable than processing physical copies on paper.

So, step 1 is setting up your free IRS online account. If you have a spouse, they should set up their online account with the IRS as well.

With an online account, you can access your tax records, view or create payment plans, authorize a qualifying tax professional to access your records or act on your behalf before the IRS, and receive some notifications electronically. The IRS plans to expand what you can do with your online account over time. 

2. Respond online to an IRS letter or notice when possible

Some IRS notices or letters now come with an access code and directions for how to respond online. These letters supply the website address where you can upload your response. Here is the upload tool that’s typically used.

You can only use this for responses or documents the IRS indicates you can upload and for which you have received an access code. 

3. Check your refund status with the Where’s My Refund tool

The Where’s My Refund tool isn’t new, but starting in the 2024 filing season, it will provide more details than it has in the past. The goal is you’ll be able to quickly get information through this tool instead of calling the IRS and waiting to speak to an IRS support representative.  

4. Use the IRS2Go Mobile App

With more and more people using their phones to get things done, the IRS has rolled out a mobile app.   With the app, you can check on your refund status, make payments, access free tax filing, and stay up to date on changes from the IRS. 

5. DIY your tax filing for FREE

The IRS Free File program allows qualifying people to file their taxes for free. It has two components:

  1. The first component connects you with IRS-trusted partners who provide software filing for Federal tax returns for those with an Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) of $79,000 or less.

    Unfortunately, each software provider may have different criteria to determine which tax situations qualify for free filing. And whether or not the software provider offers a state income tax return filing for free varies. 
  2. The second component is an IRS system where anyone can fill out fillable PDF forms and file them electronically. There is no assistance for tax preparation with this option, so few people use it. 

6. Use IRS locator tools to find free in-person help with filing your tax returns

The IRS has two programs through which they partner with nonprofits and government agencies to help taxpayers file their tax returns for free. Qualifying criteria vary by location. Find in-person free tax help with the IRS locator tools here. 

7. Calculate tax withholding using the IRS withholding estimator

Often, when a taxpayer is surprised by the tax return result, it’s because tax withholding from their paycheck or their pension check was not set to get the desired result.

The IRS withholding estimator takes a complicated process and simplifies it. And the estimator will indicate exactly what you need to enter in your W-4. While this estimator isn’t perfect, it works well for most taxpayers. 

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