January 27, 2017 9:00 am

What to Know About This Filing Season

As you file your 2016 return, there are some new considerations. Here are 5 things you need to know.

1. Key dates for the filing season

Mark your calendar for important dates impacting your 2016 federal income tax return.

  • January 23, 2017: the date that the IRS will begin processing 2016 individual income tax returns.
  • February 15, 2017: the date that the IRS will begin to issue tax refunds based on the earned income tax credit and/or the additional child tax credit.
  • April 18, 2017: the deadline for filing your 2016 return or obtaining a filing extension to avoid a late filing penalty. It is also the deadline for making a 2016 contribution to an IRA, Roth IRA, or health savings account.
  • October 16, 2017: the extended due date for 2016 returns.

2. Free File

You can prepare your return online and submit it electronically through Free File if your adjusted gross income in 2016 is $64,000 or less (compared with the $62,000 limit last year). It is estimated that 70% of taxpayers qualify to use Free File, which is a program that enables individuals to prepare and file their returns using solutions offered by private software companies (last year there were 13 companies offering options but the number this year is not yet known). Some options also allow you to do your state income tax returns. You can find information about Free File from the IRS.

For those with income above the Free File limit, returns can be prepared at no cost using Free File Fillable Forms. These are electronic versions of IRS forms where you input the information and the site does basic math calculations for you.

3. Checking on refunds

Where’s My Refund? is an online way to track your refund. You can use it 24 hours after you e-file, or four weeks after you file your return by snail mail.

You can also use a mobile app called IRS2GO to track your refund. This app works on both Apple and Android systems.

Note that updates to tracking are made only once every 24 hours, so there’s no need to check more frequently.

4. Contacting the IRS

The IRS has a toll-free phone number that you can call from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time: 800-829-1040. Last year, it was difficult to get through to the number or to obtain the information being sought. What will happen this year is unclear.

Note: The IRS cautions you not to call about a tax refund unless it’s been more than 21 days since filing electronically, more than six weeks since filing on paper, or the Where’s My Refund? tool directs you to contact the IRS.

5. Miscellaneous changes

From year to year, there are a number of developments that may impact the filing and processing of your return. Here are some for this year:

  • If the software you use to prepare your 2016 return is different from the software you used last year, you’ll need your adjusted gross income from your 2015 income tax return to verify your identity and to electronically sign your return. PIN numbers are no longer being used.
  • If you used an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) that was issued prior to 2013 or that was not used for tax years 2013, 2014, or 2015, you’ll need a new one; the old one has become invalid. The same is true for those with an ITIN with the middle digits of 78 or 79.
  • If you worked and earned less than $53,505 in 2016 (up from $53,267 in 2015), you may be eligible for the earned income credit. The IRS says that one in five workers eligible for the credit fail to claim it. Self-employed individuals who had a bad year may qualify for this refundable tax credit. Use the EITC Assistant Tool to determine eligibility.

Conclusion

As Benjamin Franklin said, “nothing is certain but death and taxes.” You can’t duck your filing responsibilities, and changes from year to year make it confusing to do the right thing. At J.K. Lasser, we aim to provide you with the best information to help you meet your tax responsibilities. We wish you success in this filing season.

advertisement
Tax Glossary

Self-employment tax

Tax paid by self-employed persons to finance Social Security coverage. In 2007, there are two rates. A 12.4% rate applies to a taxable earnings base of $95,700 or less and a 2.9% rate applies to all net earnings.

More terms