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Politics & Government

With Tax Season Upon Us, Federal Government Urges E-File and Free-File

The IRS and Pennsylvania Department of Revenue will get a bit of a late start this tax season, thanks to the 2013 federal government shutdown.

Both federal and state tax returns will begin processing refunds on Jan. 31. Still, people can get a jump on filling out the forms. As of Jan. 17 both the IRS and Pennsylvania will allow online free-file options.

“That allows individuals who have incomes under $58,000 to access free, brand-name tax software to help them prepare and file electronically their tax returns, or they can access what’s called free-file fillable forms which is another free way to prepare and file their taxes,” said IRS spokeswoman Jennifer Jenkins.

The fillable form option won’t be available until Jan. 31.

Though there aren’t any major changes in tax laws, the IRS will also offer a daily tax tips feature for subscribers starting at the end of January.

“Folks will get, every day, a new tip that will help them know about credits, deductions that they may be eligible to claim, ways that they can save money, what is the best filing status for them,” Jenkins said.

The IRS is expecting to process nearly 150 million tax returns nationally, about six million of them from Pennsylvania. The fastest way to receive a refund, if one is due, is by e-filing.

“This year refunds, we’re looking at turnaround of 21 days or less,” said Jenkins. “That’s the target. Ninety percent plus of the people who filed last year — we were able to get their refunds to them within that 21 day window.”

For those worried about online security, outlines ways the agency is working to combat identity theft. Jenkins said there have not been any major issues with e-file.

“IRS e-file has been around for a few decades at this point,” she said. “It is safe, secure and it’s a pretty quick and easy way for people to prepare and file their taxes electronically.”

The deadline to file a tax return is still April 15, though those needing to can request a six-month extension.