Chicago Tribune (Sunday)

What you need to know as tax season kicks off

- Jill Schlesinge­r Jill on Money Jill Schlesinge­r, CFP, is a CBS News business analyst. A former options trader and CIO of an investment advisory firm, she welcomes comments and questions at askjill@ jillonmone­ Check her website at jillonmone­

Taxpayers, start your engines!

The tax season officially opened Jan. 29 and the IRS expects more than 128 million individual tax returns to be filed. To mark the event, here are some important facts.

Tax filing deadline

For most taxpayers, the deadline to file their personal federal tax return, pay any tax owed or request an extension to file is Monday, April 15.

Taxpayers living in Maine or Massachuse­tts have until April 17, due to the Patriot’s Day and Emancipati­on Day holidays. Taxpayers who reside in a federally declared disaster area also may have additional time to file.

Prepare now

Bookmark the website and check out the “Get Ready” section. You will need to gather all of your relevant informatio­n, like Social Security numbers and this year’s Identity Protection Personal Identifica­tion Numbers (IP PIN).

Collect all income-related documents, like W2s, 1099s, unemployme­nt benefits received, dividends, pensions, annuities or retirement plan distributi­ons.

Use IRS Free File

This service lets you file your federal taxes at no extra cost, either through electronic fillable forms or through IRS partnershi­ps with private tax preparatio­n services. It’s open to taxpayers with Adjusted Gross Income of $79,000 or less in 2023. If your AGI is higher, you can use Free File Fillable Forms, the electronic version of paper forms.

Consider Direct File

The IRS is experiment­ing with a new way to file taxes called Direct File, which will allow taxpayers to file their 2023 federal return online, for free, directly with the IRS. If you are eligible (you have to live in one of the 12 pilot states), it sounds pretty nifty: no software, mobile-friendly, easy to use, secure, accessible and free.

Skip paper, file electronic­ally

Many of the headaches that taxpayers encounter, including easily avoidable errors and long wait times for refunds, could be sidesteppe­d if everyone filed electronic­ally and used direct deposit.

If you are due a refund, electronic filers with direct deposit usually receive it within 21 days.

Hire a pro or go it on your own?

It’s tough to find someone to help with your taxes in April, so now’s the time to figure out whether it is necessary. If you have a complicate­d financial life, consider paying a profession­al.

Claiming the Child Tax credit?

Don’t jump the gun! If you have a child younger than 17, you may be eligible to claim a tax credit of up to $2,000 per child when you file your tax returns.

The credit is available to single and head-of-household filers who earn less than $200,000 and married filing jointly who earn $400,000 or below.

There is a proposal in Congress that could help lower-income families by increasing their CTC, but it’s not clear whether the change will get through and, if it does, whether it will be in time for this tax season. Regardless of what happens with the proposal, by law, the IRS can’t release a refund for a return for certain credits until mid-February. (You can use the IRS Where’s My Refund? tool to track your refund.)

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