Get your financial records in order and fire up your computer: It’s tax season. This year, the IRS expects to receive more than 168 million individual income tax returns. While most people don’t look forward to filing their taxes, most taxpayers are looking forward to receiving their refunds; last year's average tax refund was more than $3,000.
The IRS worked for months to prepare for the 2023 tax season. This year, the IRS began accepting returns on January 23. This date for individual tax return filers allowed the IRS time to perform annual updates and readiness tasks that are critical to ensuring IRS systems run smoothly. Many software providers and tax professionals are already accepting tax returns.
The IRS strongly encourages people to file their tax returns electronically to minimize errors and get faster refunds. The IRS also encourages taxpayers to have all the information they need to file an accurate return to avoid delays. The IRS's Free File program allows taxpayers who made $73,000 or less in 2022 to file their taxes electronically for free using software provided by commercial tax filing companies. More information on Free File is available on the IRS.gov website. (The $73,000 limit is the same as the prior year.)
Free File went live January 13, 2023. Because the filing season did not start until January 23, IRS Free File providers will accept completed tax returns and hold them until they can be filed electronically on that date.
AAA sat down with Anthony Burke at the IRS to find out what you need to know and do before you file tax year 2022 income taxes, including deadlines, when to use an accountant and how to choose one, and common errors.
AAA World: When is the deadline to file your tax year 2022 personal federal income taxes?
Anthony Burke: The filing deadline to submit 2022 tax returns or an extension to file and pay tax owed is Monday, April 18, 2023. By law, Washington, D.C., holidays impact tax deadlines for everyone in the same way federal holidays do. The due date is April 18, instead of April 15, because of the Emancipation Day holiday in the District of Columbia; taxpayers requesting an extension will have until Monday, October 16, 2023, to file.
AAAW: What is the fastest way to file your taxes?
Burke: Fast is good for sure, but fast and accurate is very important. IRS Free File marks its 21st filing season this year and is one of many free options available to taxpayers for filing their taxes either online or in person. IRS Free File is offered via a public-private partnership between the IRS and the Free File Inc., formerly the Free File Alliance. Through this partnership, leading tax software providers make their online products available in both English and Spanish for free.
The majority of taxpayers qualify to use the IRS Free File program, which is a partnership with the private software industry to provide free tax preparation software to taxpayers whose adjusted gross income was $73,000 or less in 2022.
Filing your tax return is also free, quick, and easy if you do it yourself. You can usually complete a simple IRS return in 30 minutes or less. Gathering all the documents you need—[Form] W-2s, 1099s, statements on interest and investment income, etc.—usually takes longer than actually entering the information into the software and e-filing the return. If you have all your documents ready, the process can be done quickly.
Every year, a large percentage of people who efile choose to file from a home computer. During 2022, slightly less than half, about 44 percent, of all the e-file returns the IRS received were prepared on a home computer.
AAAW: Tax documents normally start arriving in people’s mailboxes in late January. What documents should filers locate before preparing their taxes?
Burke: For most people, a Form W-2, Wage Tax Statement from your employer is the key to getting started. If you had side jobs or other income, you may also receive a Form 1099 from whomever paid you during 2022, including banks that send 1099s showing interest and brokers who send 1099s showing dividends. Don’t forget those bank and investment income statements; you’ll need those to calculate your income.
AAAW: What should people do if they haven’t received a Form W-2 from their employer?
Burke: Employers have until January 31 to issue W-2s to their employees. After that time, you should check with your employer as to when you can expect a W-2. But you still have to file on time, even if you don’t get your Form W-2. You should be able to figure your income and withholding from your wage and earning statement from your employer’s HR department; you can use Form 4852, Substitute for Form W-2 for filing your return.
AAAW: Before I ask about professional tax help, any special reminders for taxpayers doing their own taxes?
Burke: A couple of reminders, there was no extension of the tax break that previously allowed non-itemizers to claim a deduction for charitable contributions, and the additional tax breaks added to the child tax credit expired so those benefits are similar to what they were in years prior to last filing season.
AAAW: Many Americans opt to use a tax preparer to help them file a return. What advice do you have for choosing a tax preparer?
Burke: More than half of all taxpayers hire a professional when it’s time to file a tax return, and the vast majority of tax pros are honest. You should, however, use the same care in selecting a tax professional as you do in selecting a doctor or attorney. You are going to be sharing confidential information with your tax person, so get referrals, and do some research.
Be wary of a tax preparer who wants to take a percentage of your refund as their fee. Also, make sure that the tax preparer signs the return and includes a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). If the preparer is unwilling to sign the return, include a PTIN, and e-file the return, look for another preparer.
Never sign a blank tax return when someone tells you they will just fill in the numbers later. In the end, it is your signature on the tax return, so you’re responsible for it. Be safe with your personal information and be sure to ask questions until you feel comfortable with the person who will be preparing your taxes.
AAAW: For those filing their taxes on their own, what are some common errors to avoid?
Burke: The biggest mistake a taxpayer could make is not using IRS e-file because e-file is the fastest and most accurate way to do your taxes.
With e-file, math mistakes and mistakes calculating certain credits or deductions are caught by your computer software, but it is still a good idea to double-check the math and to be sure to read instructions and qualifications carefully. Bottom line, if we catch an error on your return, it will definitely slow down the processing, and you will have to wait longer to get any refund money. You may end up with a smaller refund or even owe additional tax.
AAAW: Some early birds may have already filed their taxes. How can they check the status of their refund, and generally how long does it take for a refund to be processed?
Burke: For taxpayers who e-file and choose direct deposit, IRS generally issues refunds in less than 21 days. Use the IRS website to check the status of your return.
AAAW: If I have a question about filing my taxes, what is the best way to reach the IRS?
Burke: By far the best way to get your question answered is to start with the www.IRS.gov website. It's the quickest and easiest option for help. From IRS.gov, taxpayers can quickly access the variety of free resources available to help at any time, day or night.
Taxpayers who want to be able to access information about their personal taxes from the IRS should go to IRS.gov and create an online account, which securely provides tax account information on IRS.gov and helps provide important filing information.
The IRS anticipates making significant improvements to phone service this year for taxpayers and tax professionals as more training for new phone assistors is completed in the weeks ahead. However, the IRS emphasizes it’s important to note that call volumes remain at historically high levels. The IRS urges people to visit IRS.gov for the information they need.