Everything You Need to Know about Filing Your Taxes

By: Maggie Beetz

There’s no shortage of information available about the complicated world of taxes. But you can also find plenty of information on how to make the filing process simple and easy and everything you need to know is buried within the IRS website. Here is a roadmap to the most essential information for taking the headache out of your annual federal tax filing.

1. How to File For Free and Electronically

There are many options for taxpayers looking to file their taxes online and the IRS maintains a list of e-file partners so taxpayers don’t fall victim to scammers. (). If you are one of the 95 million taxpayers with an “adjusted gross income" of $52,000 or less, you can file your tax online and for free. Just visit the Free File Program webpage on the IRS website at for more information and a list of 19 participating e-file partners.  

The site offers a “Guide Me to a Company" option that helps visitors decide which e-file partner to choose. From there, taxpayers will leave the IRS website and be directed to the private company site. If an e-file partner company notifies you that you are not eligible for free filing, go through the IRS website and select another company. While shopping around, keep in mind that some companies may charge a fee for filing state taxes.

For legitimate online filing options for businesses, charities, corporations and individual taxpayers visit .

2. How to Get Free Help from the IRS

We have to file our taxes year after year, so it’s a wonder we’re not all experts. Income, marital status, dependents and residence can remain unchanged for years, but new tax laws make us feel like we’re filing for the first time. Well, whether you are filing for the first time or the fiftieth, here are a few ways to get the help you need:

1040 Central Online Help

No matter what kind of tax help you need, 1040 Central is a good place to start. Visit this resource to browse various answers to questions about forms, your refund status, filing options, tax law changes, information on credits, tool and more. Visit .

Call the IRS

Sometimes finding the answers you need could be as simple as calling the IRS, if you know the right numbers and have the right information. The IRS has several different numbers for different inquiries or services. Here are a few:

  • Individual taxpayers can call the IRS Toll Free Tax Help Line with questions about their returns at 1-800-829-1040.
  • To check the status of you tax refund, call the Refund Hotline at 1-800-829-1954.
  • To order forms and publications, anytime day or night, call 1-800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
  • To hear recordings of other tax-related information, call the TeleTax line at 1-800-829-4477.
  • Hearing-impaired taxpayers with TTY/TDD equipment can call 1-800-829-4059.

The Tax Help Line, Refund Hotline, and the TTY/TDD line are available Monday through Friday, 7:00 a.m.

to 10:00 p.m. local time, with Alaska and Hawaii observing Pacific Time. The Tax Form number is available 24 hours a day. 

Get Free IRS Publications

If you’re looking for accurate information on virtually every tax topic under the sun, IRS publications are your answer.

Publication 17 is the most thorough tax guide for individual taxpayers. The 300-page publication is regularly updated with answers to taxpayers’ most frequently asked questions. It is also free. To get your copy, visit (Full Text), (Table of Contents) or request one by calling 1-800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

The IRS also has many other publications located on their website () including Publication 910, “The Guide to Free Tax Services," which can be found at (full text).

These lengthy publications can be daunting, but detailed indexes and tables of content quickly direct you to the information you need.

Nationwide Tax Help Sites for Elderly, Military and Low Income Taxpayers

Taxpayers who are over 59 years old, military personnel and people earning less than $39,000 have access to free tax preparation help at over 12,000 tax preparation sites throughout the country. The Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) Program, the Armed Forced Tax Council (AFTC) and the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program use trained community volunteers to provide assistance, answer questions and inform taxpayers about tax credits they can claim such as the Earned Income Tax Credit or the Credit for the Elderly. In addition to providing information, each site will have tax return preparation assistance and onsite electronic filing. For more detailed information on either program visit

Get Help Choosing Your Help- How to Decide on a Tax Return Preparer

No matter who prepares your tax return, you are ultimately responsible for what it says and may be held directly accountable for any mistakes. Getting professional help with your tax return can be beneficial, especially if you’re unsure about the process, but it is crucial to choose a legitimate and reputable professional. Here are some tips directly from the IRS on what to do before choosing your tax return preparer:

  • Do your research by checking with the Better Business Bureau and asking for references from their past or current clients.
  • Find out if they are members of any professional organizations which require continuing education or adherence to a code of ethics.
  • Make sure your preparer will be easy to contact after your return is filed.
  • Learn about fees before signing up.
  • Be wary of preparers that promise larger-than-expected returns.

If you encounter an abusive or fraudulent tax preparer, you can report the incident and the preparer to the IRS by filling out Form 3949-A.

3. Get Your Refund Faster 

Now for the advice you really care about: how to get your tax refund faster!

Direct Deposit

If you expect a refund, the most surefire way to get it as quickly as possible is to request direct deposit. You can receive your money days, even weeks, sooner by having your refund deposited directly into your bank account.. You won’t have to wait for it to come in the mail -- or worry about it getting lost in the mail -- and you’ll save yourself a trip to the bank. The IRS now has the option to directly deposit your refund into more than one account with their new “split refund" option.


According to the IRS, taxpayers who file online will get their refunds in half the time as taxpayers who file paper returns.

File Early

The sooner you file, the sooner you’ll see your return. Makes sense, right? Most people wait until just a few short days before the deadline (this year’s deadline is April 17th). Beat the rush and benefit by filing early.

No matter how or when you file, you can always check the status of your return online or over the phone. Go to the IRS homepage and click on “Where’s My Refund?" or call the Refund Hotline at 1-800-829-1954. You will need your social security number, filing status and the exact amount of your refund.

In the meantime, be wary of Refund Anticipation Loans, or RALs. These are very short-term loans from lenders in the amount of your anticipated refund. While these loans can be tempting, especially to low- and middle-income taxpayers, borrowers can get stuck with an expensive debt if the refund arrives late or is a less amount than anticipated. It’s best to simply avoid these loans.

4. If You Owe

If you owe, you have several options for paying your tax bill.

The Electronic Federal Tax Payment System

A free, 24-7 online and telephone tax payment option for individuals and businesses is the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, or EFTPS, provided by the U.S. Department of Treasury. With EFTPS, you can pay all of your federal taxes. You can make the payment online or over the phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also schedule payments ahead of time by indicating on what day you want funds from your account to be transferred to the Treasury’s account.

Individuals and businesses must enroll to use EFTPS and must pay by 8:00 PM (EST) the day before the due date so that the payment is processed on time. Like the Free File program, taxpayers can gain secure access to the EFTPS website through the IRS site. To enroll, go to or call one of the following numbers:

  • Individuals: 1-800-316-6541
  • Businesses: 1-800-555-4477
  • TDD Hearing-Impaired: 1-800- 733-4829
  • Español: 1-800-244-4829
  • EFTPS Online: 1-800-555-8778

Filing taxes is almost as fun as paying taxes. However, being educated about taxes will help reduce your risk of making costly mistakes. Being a well-informed taxpayer will also help you to spend less time dealing with taxes and more time doing anything else.


FSI Tax Corp.

9212 Berger Rd.

Columbia, MD 21046


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