Where’s My Refund? 8 Free Government Tax Tools You Didn’t Know Existed

Free Government Tax Tools

The deadline to file taxes is fast approaching, but you don’t need to hit the panic button just yet. As you dig out last year’s records and sift through your W-2 and 1099 forms while mentally trying to estimate what’s deductible and what isn’t, you might be thinking it’s going to cost you dearly to get everything organized and filed correctly. Actually, it’s a fairly easy and affordable process nowadays.

Related: TurboTax, H&R Block and More: A Review of the Best Tax Services of 2015

Forget the idea that a 1040EZ form is the only simple way to file taxes. The IRS and participating tax agencies have a virtual smorgasbord of free tools and programs available to help you get your taxes filed in a timely, efficient manner without having to pay hundreds of dollars for a tax professional to do it for you.

We’ve compiled a list of eight free resources that can offer you support this tax season.

Free Tools to Help You With Your Taxes

1. Taxpayer Advocate Service

This service is free of charge and offers tips for filing your taxes, making payment plans, interacting with the IRS, amending a return and more. It also provide guidelines to help ensure you don’t make a costly mistake. There is at least one Local Taxpayer Advocate in each state, and if you qualify to receive an advocate’s help, one will assist you with your taxing needs.

2. Free File

If your income was less than $60,000 in 2014, you can file your taxes online for free by using Free File. The free download-able software walks you through each line of a return, helps you find tax breaks and electronically files your federal return. It can be a useful resource for those filing their taxes for the first time. You can still file for free if you earned more than $60,000, but in this case you will be using Free File Fillable Forms instead. It gives you electronic forms to fill out and doesn’t walk you through each step like the former program does.

Read: 2015 Tax Law Changes You Need to Know About

3. Get Transcript

If you want to view information regarding the items from your tax return or your tax account transactions, you can use the Get Transcript feature on the IRS website and receive a transcript via mail or directly online. A Tax Return Transcript will let you see most line items from your tax return, and a Tax Account Transcript gives you details on what type of return you filed, how much in taxes were paid and more.

4. Where’s My Refund?

Once you filed your taxes and the IRS received your electronically filed tax return or paper return, you can check the status of your refund by accessing this feature via the IRS website or the mobile app, IRS2Go. For a electronically filed return, check the refund status within 24 hours after the IRS receives it. If you filed a paper tax return, wait about four weeks. The IRS generally issues refunds within 21 days, and the site that tracks your refund’s status only updates once every 24 hours.

5. IRS Withholding Calculator

If you’re an employee, and you don’t know how much tax should be withheld from your paycheck or if you should give your employer a new W-4 form, utilize this calculator. It can help you get the numbers just right so you’re keeping the maximum amount of every paycheck.

Read: Why Your W-4 Is More Important Than You Realize

6. Direct Pay

No one likes having to pay taxes, but at least this feature makes it as painless as possible. Sign up for Direct Pay, and have your tax bill automatically taken out of your bank account electronically at absolutely no additional cost. And, you can get your payment confirmed immediately.

7. EFTPS: Electronic Federal Tax Payment System

This government system is designed to give you the ability to pay your federal taxes free of charge using either the internet or telephone. You can schedule payments to be made in the future and check up to 16 months of payment history as well.

8. Online Payment Agreement Application

If you owe $50,000 or less in overdue taxes and can’t pay your taxes in full right then and there, you can apply online to make payments in installments. Just make sure you filed all required tax returns before applying.

Photo credit: Chris Potter