I.R.S. unveils new free tax-filing system for trial

The Internal Revenue Service (I.R.S.) is introducing a new free option for filing federal tax returns, exclusively available to residents of specific states. The I.R.S. has put forward a plan to test an in-house filing system wherein taxpayers can submit their federal tax returns directly to the agency online, at no cost. Currently, residents of twelve states are eligible to participate, provided they meet certain criteria.

Testing the Feasibility of Free Direct Filing

This innovative effort, aimed at testing the feasibility of providing taxpayers with a new option to file their returns for free directly with the I.R.S., has garnered positive remarks from Danny Werfel, the agency’s commissioner. However, this direct filing system has encountered resistance from commercial tax-preparation companies, with Intuit’s spokeswoman criticizing it as a “half-baked solution” and a waste of taxpayer money.

Political Perspectives and Eligibility

While Democrats generally support the idea of free direct filing, Republicans are concerned that this initiative, part of President Biden’s plan to overhaul the I.R.S., would give the agency more power over ordinary taxpayers. The direct file pilot targets low- and moderate-income taxpayers with simple returns, setting specific eligibility criteria.

Expanding Options for Taxpayers

Though several free options for preparing and submitting electronic returns are already available, including the I.R.S. Free File program and online forms, the I.R.S. aims to further streamline the filing process through the direct filing system. The agency envisions a mobile-friendly service available in English and Spanish, with live online chat support and the option to speak with a customer service representative.

Pilot Execution and Future Plans

To ensure the success of the pilot, the I.R.S. initially plans to open it to a small group of taxpayers during the 2024 filing season, gradually expanding the eligibility as the season progresses. Additionally, the agency is committed to promoting the filing option through its network of grassroots and community partners before deciding if the direct filing system should be opened to more taxpayers.
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Significant Questions and Answers

The upcoming tax filing season brings forth several questions and answers, including the states involved in the pilot, the expected start date for filing income taxes, and the tax filing deadline for the year 2023. The participating states include Arizona, California, Florida, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington State, and Wyoming. The I.R.S. is yet to announce the specific start date for filing returns for tax year 2023, typically in late January, with the federal filing deadline set for April 15 for most filers.

Filing Assistance and Collaboration

The direct filing system has prompted collaboration between the I.R.S. and special teams within the government, focusing on developing digital services to facilitate the tax filing experience for eligible taxpayers. Notably, this includes the partnership with Code for America, a nonprofit organization building state electronic filing software for Arizona and New York, aligning with the I.R.S. pilot. In conclusion, the I.R.S.’s introduction of the free direct filing system comes at a pivotal moment, presenting opportunities for eligible taxpayers in select states to explore an alternative means of filing their federal tax returns. As the pilot progresses, the agency’s commitment to providing efficient and accessible services is likely to pave the way for future innovations in the realm of tax filing, potentially influencing a broader spectrum of taxpayers nationwide.


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