5 things to know when filing season opens

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This is an excerpt from the Personal Finance Team’s weekly Twitter space, “This Week, Your Portfolio.” Check out the latest episode hereand continuing every Friday at 11 a.m. ET.

tax season Launched Jan 23. The IRS expects taxpayers to file More than 168 million returnees, most of them before the April 18 deadline.

Here are some key things to know before signing up, according to CNBC Sharon EbersonChief Personal Financial Correspondent Kate Dorypersonal finance reporter.

1. Filing — and tax assistance — may be free

Some taxpayers can take advantage of free (and often underutilized) resources when filing a return.

the Free file for the IRS The program offers free guided online tax preparation. The program, which is offered via a public-private partnership, is available to taxpayers annually adjusted gross income $73,000 or less.

The free file is available to 70% of taxpayers, however Few use it – and they may inadvertently pay to file a return.

The IRS also offers Fillable forms, which are electronic federal tax forms that you can fill out and submit online for free. It’s basically a pencil and paper do-it-yourself option.

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You may also qualify for Free tax assistance at a local Voluntary Income Tax Help Center, which is generally available to people who earn $60,000 or less, people with a disability, or people with limited English. Those 60 and over can get help with tax advice for seniors.

You can locate a nearby VITA or TCE website at IRS Web site.

2. When should the tax return be submitted?

In most cases, you should apply as soon as possible – to get a faster refund and reduce the odds of a scammer claiming a refund in your name via Identity theft.

However, you need all the relevant tax forms to a file, and not all of them may be available yet. You can use last year’s tax return to find out what forms you might need. It may be mailed to you or available online. (Aside from tax forms, be sure to have receipts on hand for relevant tax deductions and credits.)

If you owe a tax bill — and you’re worried you don’t have the money to pay right now — you can delay sending the return, generally until April 18th. Penalty reduction bill.

3. The timing and amount of tax refunds

Generally, you should receive your refund within 21 days.

to Avoid delayError-free electronic tax return submission with direct deposit of payments. Do not submit a paper return or request a check refund.

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Double check your return for major details and basic errors such as misspellings of your name, address, date of birth, bank details, and social security number. Mistakes can delay refunds.

The IRS has warned about tax refunds may be smaller this year. A pandemic-era tax credit — such as improvements to the Child Tax Credit, Child and Dependent Care Credit, and Earned Income Tax Credit — is no longer available.

4. What to do with the tax refund

It might be wise to save — and not spend — your refund this year. Having a bigger financial cushion is important in an environment economic uncertainty.

Taxpayers can earn about 3% to 4% on that cash via an online bank that offers a high yield savings account. They may also want to contribute to a pre-tax individual retirement account or a Roth account.

5. Smoother customer service

Those with tax questions may experience smoother customer service from the IRS this year than in the recent past.

The Inflation Reduction Act boosted funding for the agency it started Subtract changes Like hiring 5,000 new customer service representatives and new technology that allows people to respond to certain online notifications.

Last year, only 13% of people who called reached a representative. The IRS hopes to reduce the phone wait time to 15 minutes.

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