When will you get your federal tax refund? It depends
IRS Direct File pilot available this filing season in 12 states

Jan. 29 is official start of 2024 tax filing season

Free File opens earlier, on Friday, Jan. 12. And business filers can e-file their returns starting Tuesday, Jan. 16, the first business day after the federal Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.

2024 tax season starts January 29 IRS

And we have a starting date! The Internal Revenue Service today announced that it will begin accepting and processing 2023 tax year individual returns on Monday, Jan. 29.

But wait. There's more.

Free File available Jan. 12: The IRS also has a date for taxpayers eligible to use its Free File service.

This no-cost tax preparation and e-filing partnership of the IRS and some members of the tax software industry will open to eligible taxpayers on Jan. 12. This year, Free File is available to any taxpayer or family with adjusted gross income of $79,000 or less in 2023.

However, there are no details yet, either at the IRS.gov Free File or Free File Alliance web pages, as to which companies will participate this year.  Mark the opening date on your calendars, but stay tuned.

If you made more than $79K last year, you can use the Free File Fillable forms portion of Free File.

Here, the IRS makes available, again at no cost, fillable versions of the most popular tax forms. You complete them yourself — note that there is no tax software component, so you need to be comfortable doing your taxes — and then electronically file them.

Business filing starts Jan. 16: Also, per the IRS Modernized e-File (MeF) status page (screen capture below), the tax agency will begin accepting e-filed business tax returns at 9 a.m. Eastern time on Jan. 16.

Business filing 2024 start date MeF screen shot

Direct File phasing in: Finally, the IRS reminds taxpayers that it also will be offering its Direct File pilot program to some taxpayers in certain states.

This test of a no-cost IRS-run tax preparation and e-filing option will be rolled out in phases as the agency completes its final system tests. The IRS says it is expected to be widely available in mid-March to eligible taxpayers in the participating states.

I repeat, stay tuned. (And preview: Come back to the ol' blog tomorrow for more on Direct File.)

Get ready: Meanwhile, you can get ready to file. In fact, if you're expecting a tax refund and have been champing at the bit to get your Form 1040 to the IRS, go for it.

If you have all the filing data you need to complete your return thoroughly and accurately, fill it out now. And if that's done by using commercial tax software, either on your own or via a paid tax professional, then hit enter and get it on its way to the IRS.

When you (or your tax preparer) do send your return in advance of the official start of tax season, most software companies will hold the returns until the IRS is ready, on Jan. 29, to begin processing returns.

Usual filing season tips reiterated: As we start another filing season, one that's again more or less normal after the crazy COVID years, now is the perfect time to remind you of some traditional tax season tips.

First, don't file before you have all your necessary return information. In most cases, that means waiting until the end of the month. Most tax statement issuers have until Jan. 31 to send you the annual documentation used in filing.

If you file too soon, and a form that changes your 1040 information arrives, you'll likely hear from the IRS about the discrepancy in the third-party reporting and your filing figures. By holding off to make sure you have all the information you need, you can avoid such follow-up inquiries, as well as not have to worry about refund delays or potentially having to file an amended return.

Second, submit your return electronically. That's probably going to happen if you hire a tax preparer. The IRS urges you to follow that lead if you do your own taxes, either using online or purchased package software, or if you qualify by using Free File, Direct File, or Free Fillable Forms.

Third, if you're expecting a tax refund, provide financial institution information with your return so the money can be directly deposited to your chosen account. If you don't have a bank account, look into establishing one before filing.

Fourth, don't be in such a hurry that you overlook some potentially tax-saving tax breaks. I'll have more on often overlooked tax benefits in a coming post, but one that folks regularly forget to claim is the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

State taxes, too: Finally, here's a fifth fling season tip from the ol' blog. Don't forget about your state taxes.

I live in a no-income-tax state, so I just have to worry about my federal filing.

Most taxpayers, however, live in states that do have some sort of income taxes, and require their residents to file annual returns detailing that money.

Most of those state tax departments also tend to follow the IRS lead when it comes to dates, both the start of filing and the forms' ultimate deadlines. If you live in a state that requires tax return filing, check with your tax officials to make sure you know, and meet, those relevant dates.

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