The IRS started accepting e-filed tax returns on Jan. 15, marking the official start of tax season. The IRS’ popular Free File program also started accepting returns on Friday. However, as usual, W-2 and 1099 forms are generally not due to taxpayers before Feb. 1, so many taxpayers will not be prepared to file before then.
With the start of tax season, the IRS also announced the release of a new form that eligible taxpayers must use to claim the first-time homebuyer credit. Form 5405, First-Time Homebuyer Credit and Repayment of the Credit, must be filed with the taxpayer’s individual tax return and is used to report the purchase of a home that makes the taxpayer eligible for the credit. In addition to Form 5405, eligible taxpayers must also include with their 2009 returns a copy of the settlement statement, executed retail sales contract (for mobile home purchases) or the certificate of occupancy (for newly constructed residences). The IRS reminded taxpayers in a news release that those who are claiming the first-time homebuyer credit cannot e-file because they must attach a proof of purchase to their returns.
E-Filing and Free File
The IRS reports that last tax season 66% of all returns were e-filed (some 95 million returns). The IRS says that for this season it is working on faster acknowledgment of whether a return has been accepted or rejected.
The Free File program allows taxpayers to prepare and file returns electronically for free, through a partnership between the IRS and a group of tax software vendors. Last season, the IRS introduced a new aspect to the Free File program—online fillable forms, which almost any individual taxpayer can use. (Traditional Free File is available only to taxpayers below a $57,000 income limit.) The IRS is urging eligible taxpayers to use the Free File program.
According to the IRS, benefits of e-filing or using Free File include a fast refund, reduced error rate and quick acknowledgment. By using e-file and direct deposit, taxpayers can get a refund in as few as 10 days. The error rate for an e-filed return is 1%, compared with 20% for a paper return. Unlike paper filers, e-filing taxpayers receive an acknowledgment that the IRS has received and accepted or rejected their returns.