Don’t Let the Pandemic Keep You from Your Tax Refund – Here’s How to File Fast (and Free)

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Tax season is starting today, and this year because of pandemic-related issues – from unemployment benefits to stimulus checks that might still be missing – filing may be more complicated than ever for many Americans.

See: Tax-Filing Season Starts Now: Here’s What You Need To Know
Find: Women’s Savings Are Shockingly Low – Inside the Gender Money Gap Made Worse by COVID-19

Last month, the IRS said that it would start accepting and processing 2020 tax year returns later than usual, on February 12.

The tax agency said that the later date allows time to do additional programming and testing of IRS systems following the December 27 tax law changes “that provided a second round of Economic Impact Payments and other benefits,” according to a statement.

See: Americans’ Savings Drop to Lowest Point in Years 
Find: What Are the 2020-2021 Federal Tax Brackets and Tax Rates?

“This programming work is critical to ensuring IRS systems run smoothly. If filing season were opened without the correct programming in place, then there could be a delay in issuing refunds to taxpayers. These changes ensure that eligible people will receive any remaining stimulus money as a Recovery Rebate Credit when they file their 2020 tax return.”

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Missing stimulus checks are an issue, but the IRS says on its website that eligible individuals who did not receive the full amount of both economic impact payments may claim the Recovery Rebate Credit on their 2020 Form 1040 or 1040-SR. The IRS describes the Recovery Rebate Credit as “a tax credit against your 2020 income tax. Generally, this credit will increase the amount of your tax refund or decrease the amount of the tax you owe.”

In addition, Congress is still working on Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue plan, which includes $1,400 direct stimulus checks, the now infamous third round of payments.

However, the eligibility criteria for the stimulus payments, which will be more stringent than the ones in the CARES package, are yet to be finalized.

See: 8 New or Improved Tax Credits and Breaks for Your 2020 Return
Find: Never Got Your Stimulus Check? Claim It on Your Taxes

The House Ways and Means Committee said earlier this week that it proposes the  cap to be $75,000 for individuals, and $150,000 for couples filing jointly. The payment would be “reduced to zero” for individuals earning $100,000 and joint filers making north of $200,000, according to the Committee’s proposal.

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Ken Corbin, the IRS’s chief taxpayer experience officer, said on a call with reporters on Thursday, “if someone is able to file an accurate return sooner we definitely encourage them to file that return as soon as they are able,” according to Bloomberg.  

See: The 4 Best Free Tax Software Options To Use Right Now
Find: IRS Delayed Refunds Last Year for Millions of Taxpayers — Here’s How To Get Yours Faster

To make filing easier, the IRS opened the IRS Free File program, a public-private partnership between the IRS and several tax preparation and filing software companies that “provide their brand-name products for free.” The program enables anyone with an income of $72,000 or less to file their federal tax return electronically for free.

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About the Author

Yaël Bizouati-Kennedy is a full-time financial journalist and has written for several publications, including Dow Jones, The Financial Times Group, Bloomberg and Business Insider. She also worked as a vice president/senior content writer for major NYC-based financial companies, including New York Life and MSCI. Yaël is now freelancing and most recently, she co-authored  the book “Blockchain for Medical Research: Accelerating Trust in Healthcare,” with Dr. Sean Manion. (CRC Press, April 2020) She holds two master’s degrees, including one in Journalism from New York University and one in Russian Studies from Université Toulouse-Jean Jaurès, France.
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