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For 2023 taxes, the IRS is piloting a new online tax filing system that lets you file at no cost, called Direct File. It is available in 12 states. Visit the IRS website for the latest information and see if you can use Direct File and save money on filing your taxes.

2024 tax deadlines

The end of the 2024 tax season for most Americans is April 15, 2024. If you are unable to file before that date, you still have options.

  1. You can file for an extension. Filing an extension gives you an additional six months to October 15, 2024, to submit a complete return. If you believe you will owe taxes, you must estimate how much you owe and pay the amount due with your extension form .
  2. You can file a late return without an extension. If you do not owe taxes or you expect a refund, you may not owe a penalty. If you owe taxes, you may be charged a penalty for filing late.
  3. If you do not owe taxes or you expect a refund, you may not owe a penalty. Still, it may be best to file as soon as you can to receive your refund or to ensure you don’t owe a balance. See below for more information on ways to file a return for free and claiming your tax refund.

About filing your tax return

If you have income below the standard deduction threshold for 2023, which is $13,850 for single filers and $27,700 for those married filing jointly, you may not be required to file a return. However, you may want to file anyway. In many cases, especially for people with low incomes, these features can increase the amount you could receive in a refund. There are some key factors to make sure you look out for.


If you worked during 2023 and had taxes withheld from your paycheck, you may be able to get some or all of that “over-withholding” back in your refund. Make sure you get W2 forms from all your employers and enter that information into the tax form when you fill it out.

The earned income tax credit

If you worked or were self-employed and had earned income under $63,698, you could receive the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) 1 by filing a tax return. If you are eligible for this credit, the maximum amount you could receive is:

  • $600 if you have no dependent children
  • $3,995 if you have one qualifying child
  • $6,604 if you have two qualifying children
  • $7,430 if you have three or more qualifying children

The child tax credit (CTC)

The Child Tax Credit is worth a maximum of $2,000 per qualifying child. Up to $1,500 is refundable. To be eligible for the CTC, you must have earned more than $2,500.2

Different ways to file your taxes

If you are one of the estimated 100 million people that are eligible to file your tax return for free you can keep all of your refund money by choosing one of these options.

In person full-service free tax preparation

If you meet the requirements below, you may be able to take advantage of in-person, full-service tax preparation services through the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) , AARP Foundation Tax-Aide, and The Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs. These free programs have operated for over 50 years and use IRS certified tax preparers and meet high IRS quality standards. This means you can be assured that you will have an accurate return.

You can schedule an appointment with VITA/TCE and Tax-Aide sites if you:

  • Generally make $60,000 or less,
  • Have a disability,
  • Have limited English skills or speak English as a second language, or
  • Are 60 years or older

Find a VITA or an AARP Tax Aide site

Note: Some VITA or AARP Tax Aide sites are open year-round and some close at the end of tax season. When you search for a site, check the “Dates open” column to find a site that plans to remain open after April 15, 2024.

Remote full-service free tax preparation

You can prepare your own return with help from IRS certified volunteers when you need it through MyFreeTaxes if your income is $73,000 or less.

You can get connected to VITA providers around the country virtually to have your return prepared by signing up through GetYourRefund if your income is $66,000 or less.

Free self-preparation

If your income is $73,0003 or less, you may be eligible to prepare and file federal income tax returns for free online, using guided tax preparation software through IRS Free File . Other eligibility for free products varies with providers and some may charge fees to file state returns. Review offers carefully and access this service through the IRS link, rather than going directly to the website for the guided tax preparation software.

Free tax filing for servicemembers

You can prepare and file your tax return for free through MilTax if you are:

  • Active-duty service members, spouses and dependent children of the eligible service members.
  • Members of the National Guard and reserve — regardless of activation status.
  • Retired and honorably discharged service members, including Coast Guard veterans, within 365 days of their discharge.
  • A family member who is managing the affairs of an eligible service member while the service member is deployed.
  • A designated family member of a severely-injured service member who is incapable of handling their own affairs.
  • Eligible survivors of active-duty, National Guard and reserve deceased service members regardless of conflict or activation status.
  • Some members of the Defense Department Civilian Expeditionary workforce.

Consider these factors before using a fee-based tax preparer

Before choosing to pay someone to prepare your taxes, here are a few things to consider:

  • The fees you pay will generally be based on the complexity of your return. If for example you have multiple sources of income including self-employment, are claiming certain tax credits, or have had changes in your life circumstances during the course of the year you will likely pay more than if you have a simple return.
    • Despite the complexity of your return, you may still be eligible to file your taxes for free if you meet the guidelines listed above so check with the free provider of your choice first before paying to have your taxes done.

Here are some important tips about selecting a paid preparer:

  • Check the preparer's qualifications. You can use the IRS directory of federal tax return preparers to check a preparer’s credentials.
  • Check the preparer's history. Taxpayers can ask the local Better Business Bureau about the preparer.
  • Ask about service fees. And be wary of preparers who boast about getting bigger refunds than their competition.
  • Make sure the preparer is available after this year's April 15 due date in case you need follow-up help with your taxes.
  • Your tax documents, such as W-2s, are your records. Preparers cannot keep the originals of these documents or keep your ID to force you to use their service. If you file using their service, they will need copies of your documents for their records.
  • Ensure the preparer signs the return and includes their Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). All paid tax preparers must have a PTIN. By law, paid preparers must sign returns and include their PTIN on the return they file.

If you go to a paid preparer they may offer you additional products that will reduce the amount of your refund such as refund anticipation checks or refund advance loans.

Understand refund anticipation checks and refund advance loans

Refund Anticipation Check (RAC)

If you use a fee-based tax preparer and you don’t have the necessary filing fees, some tax preparers may offer you a refund anticipation check (RAC). A RAC allows you to pay the tax preparation fee out of your refund instead of upfront. When you receive your refund, the tax preparer will take out the RAC fee, filing fee, and any other service fees they charged you. A RAC doesn’t deliver your refund more quickly.

RAC fees typically range from $30 to $50.

Refund Advance Loan (RAL)

Some fee-based tax preparers may offer you a refund advance loan (RAL) so that you can get a portion of your expected refund in advance. Tax preparers may call them a “tax refund advance.” If you decide to do an advance, you will borrow money upfront from the preparer, and once the IRS issues your refund to the tax preparer, you receive the remaining portion, minus the RAL fee, and any other service fees they charged you. The amount of a RAL is typically a percentage of your estimated tax refund.

All tax preparation firms are different. Some firms offer RALs with no fees or interest, but others may charge fees and interest.

Keep in mind that when you file electronically, the IRS typically issues most refunds in less than 21 days, so you may end up paying a big RAL fee for a short-term advance.

As with any financial product or service, carefully consider all fees and charges, as well as timing, to help make an informed decision that’s best for your situation.

Access your tax refund quickly and safely

If you think you may receive a refund, here are some things to think about before you file your return:

  • Electronically filing and choosing direct deposit is the fastest way to get your refund. When using direct deposit, the IRS normally issues refunds within 21 days. Issuance of paper check refunds may take much longer. The IRS estimates 4 to 6 weeks.
    • If you already have an account with a bank or credit union, make sure you have your information ready — including the account and routing number — when you file your tax return. You can provide that information on the tax form and the IRS will automatically deposit the funds into your account.
    • If you have a prepaid card that accepts direct deposit, you can also receive your refund on the card. Check with your prepaid card provider to get the routing and account number assigned to the card before you file your return.
  • Learn more about choosing the right prepaid card.
  • If you don’t have a bank account or prepaid card, consider opening an account or getting a prepaid card. Many banks and credit unions offer accounts with low (or no) monthly maintenance fees when you have direct deposit or maintain a minimum balance. These accounts may limit the types of fees you can incur and may also offer free access to in-network automated teller machines (ATMs). You can often open these accounts online.
  • Preparers may suggest receiving your refunds on a prepaid card. The fees associated with these cards vary greatly depending on your provider. Most will charge fees for out-of-network ATMs, so it is important to determine if the network is convenient for you.

Watch out for tax scams!

Scammers usually target you by impersonating the IRS to get you to share your personal information with them. Thousands of people have lost millions of dollars and their personal information to tax scams. Scammers use mail, telephone, or email to target individuals, businesses, and payroll and tax professionals.

The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages, or social media channels to request personal or financial information. Learn how to recognize the telltale signs of a scam and make sure you know how to tell if it’s really the IRS calling or knocking on your door.

Submitting complaints about financial products

Submit complaints to the CFPB about Refund Advances, Refund Checks, Prepaid Cards and other financial products, using the Submit a Complaint service.


1. Earned Income and Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Tables

2. Child Tax Credit Amounts

3. Free File: Do your Federal Taxes for Free