If you’re one of the 70 percent of taxpayers earning $58,000 or less a year, there’s a free way to file your federal tax returns promptly and reduce your chances of becoming a victim of identity theft.
The Internal Revenue Service is offering free filing through several software companies, and if you fall into that income bracket, you can start your return now, before the Jan. 31 filing season start date, through IRS.gov/freefile.
Although you can complete and e-file your tax return now, the companies will hold it until Jan. 31 when the IRS begins accepting returns. If you earned more than $58,000 in 2013, you can still e-file for free using Free File Fillable Forms, which will be available starting January 31.
Why file early? There has been a surge in tax-related identity theft, and one way to prevent being a victim is to file first so you get your refund before someone else does.
Tax fraud criminals often file false tax returns early using stolen Social Security numbers, hoping to claim thousands of dollars in refunds. In many cases, whoever files first, be it the thief or the legitimate claimant, gets the refund first.
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen says e-filing is easier for a number of reasons.
There is absolutely no advantage to filing by paper,” said he said in a news release. “If you want to save money and time, just use Free File to prepare and e-file your federal return at no charge.”