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How do I file my taxes online?

Filing your personal income tax return online is quick and easy.

Your tax return covers the financial year, which starts from January 1 to December 31 of each year. Most adults need to file a tax return, which are due by April 15 each year.

Whether you have income or not, if you are over the age of 18 and not a dependent of someone else, you are required to file a tax return. Roughly 12 million people filed for extensions in 2014, though, so if you need more time, you can get it.

How do I submit my tax return online?

If you’re confident you’d like to complete your return yourself, follow these steps to file online.

Step 1: Choose an online provider to file with

Most brand name tax return software has a free e-file version for simple taxes such as a Form 1040. If you have multiple assets, complicated deductions or credits (such as taking an energy efficiency credit, or filing a business return) you may need to pay a fee.

You can file directly with the US government by using their Free File software or fillable forms. Please note if you use the Free File fillable forms, you will not receive any guidance or instruction, so make sure you’re comfortable with your tax knowledge before choosing this method.

Step 2. Sign up and begin your returns

Most tax services such as HR Block or TurboTax will walk you through each step of the process, showing you exactly how to fill out the various form fields. The prompts also cover life events and how they are incorporated into your return, such as buying a house or car.

Oftentimes tax assistance with these services is not covered under the free versions, so be sure you budget in extra help if you need it.

Step 3. Double check everything before you submit

Most services will go back through your return and alert you of any discrepancies or red flags that might need to be addressed before you submit. Once you double check all of your forms, you will pay for the service and hit “submit”. The service then submits your tax return directly to the IRS and you receive tracking information on how to check in on your return.

What services can help me file my tax online?

There are several tax specialists that could help you with your return. We’ve reviewed them individually, so click on any one company to be taken to their page.

Details Features
HR Block
HR Block
File simply and securely with tax software from Block. Easy to use Go to site More info
TurboTax Tax Preparation Software
TurboTax Tax Preparation Software
Taxes done smarter, together. Federal Free Edition Go to site More info

Have we missed anything in the comparison table? Tell us

  • If the provider quotes a different rate to the one above please let us know

How much tax do I pay?

The amount of tax you pay generally depends on how much you earn and how much tax you’ve paid so far throughout the year, either through your paycheck or if you’re an independent contractor, through estimated quarterly payments. The average tax refund in the United States was $2,843 for individuals in 2014, another reason to get familiar with all your qualified deductions.

The IRS has released information for tax brackets for the 2016 tax year – where do you fall?

Tax brackets for individual filers for tax year 2016

If your taxable income is between:You will owe this much tax:
$0 – $9,27510% of taxable income
$9,276 – $37,650$927.50 + 15% of income over $9,275
$37,651 – $91,150$5,183.75 + 25% of income over $37,650
$91,151 – $190,150$18,558.75 + 28% of income over $91,150
$190,151 – $413,350$46,278.75 + 33% of income over $190,150
$413,351 – $415,050$119,934.75 + 35% of income over $413,350
$415,051 and above$120,529.75 + 39.6% of income over $415,050

Tax brackets for married couples filing separately for tax year 2016

If your taxable income is between:You will owe this much tax:
$0 – $9,27510% of taxable income
$9,276 – $37,650$927.50 + 15% of income over $9,275
$37,651 – $75,950$5,183.75 + 25% of income over $37,650
$75,951 – $115,725$14,758.75 + 28% of income over $75,950
$115,726 – $206,675$25,895.75 + 33% of income over $115,725
$206,676 – $233,475$55,909.25 + 35% of income over $206,675
$233,476 and above$65,289.25 + 39.6% of income over $233,475

Tax brackets for married couples filing jointly for tax year 2016

Includes surviving spouses

If your taxable income is between:You will owe this much tax:
$0 – $18,55010% of taxable income
$18,551 – $75,300$1,855 + 15% of income over $18,550
$75,301 – $151,900$10,367.50 + 25% of income over $75,300
$151,901 – $231,450$29,517.50 + 28% of income over $151,900
$231,451 – $413,350$51,791.50 + 33% of income over $231,450
$413,351 – $466,950$111,818.50 + 35% of income over $413,350
$466,951 and above$130,578.50 + 39.6% of income over $466,950

Tax brackets for heads of household for tax year 2016

If your taxable income is between:You will owe this much tax:
$0 – $13,25010% of taxable income
$13,251 – $50,400$1,325 + 15% of income over $13,250
$50,401 – $130,150$6,897.50 + 25% of income over $50,400
$130,151 – $210,800$26,835 + 28% of income over $130,150
$210,801 – $413,350$49,417 + 33% of income over $210,801
$413,351 – $441,000$116,258.50 + 35% of income over $413,350
$441,001 and above$125,936 + 39.6% of income over $441,000

Should I DIY or get professional help?

Weigh a few factors to help make your decision:

  • How complicated your return is. If your tax return is straightforward then submitting it online may be easier. Even if you have had a major life event such as having a baby or buying a house, tax software should be able to walk you through it. However, if you have many assets or have bought or sold multiple investments and don’t have time to go through the paperwork, then using an accountant may help from an organization and detail standpoint. You wouldn’t want to miss a form, or leave a deduction on the table.
  • Your budget for fees. Usually a tax agent will charge a flat fee or charge based on a tiered scale. In most cases, your tax agent can make the fee worth it, by saving you more on your tax return.
  • Your confidence in your own financial know how. The IRS regularly audits tax returns to ensure they’re compliant and follow the law. Tax regulations are always changing and if your tax return is not considered to be compliant, there are serious penalties including fines and potentially jail time. However, the IRS only audits about 1% of tax returns each year, and with the rise of more e-filing that number is dropping. As long as you aren’t claiming anything you shouldn’t, you won’t have anything to worry about if an auditor comes knocking.

Your tax questions answered

Yes. All of the registered tax providers and the IRS will have taken security measures to ensure that your financial information is being handled securely. Though if you still prefer to do things face to face, you can go to a walk-in center such as HR Block to have a preparer mail them in. Or, you can mail in your own Form 1040.

Anyone who has been paid for goods and services, or who has paid any tax through wages must submit a tax return. Failure to do so will result in a failure to pay on time penalty and, perhaps, more serious trouble if left untended to. Your employer sends a copy of your payment information to the IRS too, so if you fail to file or pay, the IRS will calculate what you owe and start collecting interest on it. If you’re worried about your tax situation then contact a tax professional to find out more.

You may be able to qualify for a tax credit of the cost of childcare for a child under the age or 13 or a disabled dependent – potentially up to 35% of qualifying expenses up to $3,000 for one child or up to $6,000 for two or more.

If you are unable to submit your taxes by April 15th, or feel you need more time, you can file for a 6-month extension using IRS Form 4868. If you plan to submit your taxes using a tax return software, often they offer extensions as part of their services.

DISCLAIMER: Many of the comments in this article are general in nature and anyone intending to apply the information to practical circumstances should seek professional advice to independently verify their interpretation and the information applicability to their own particular circumstances.

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