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How to do your federal taxes for free

Going to college; getting your first job; moving into your own place. To these rites of passage, add one more: doing your own taxes. And, it doesn’t have to be scary. There is actually a simple way to do your taxes that can help save you time and money.

Free File — available at IRS.gov — lets you choose brand-name tax software that does the hard work for you, all for free. The IRS has a partnership with the Free File Alliance, a coalition of leading tax software companies. About 3 million people use it every year. There is also a software option that is available in Spanish.

Free File facts:

– There is a Free File option for every taxpayer.– Free File’s brand-name tax software is available to those who made $57,000 or less in 2012.– Free File’s online fillable forms are the electronic alternative to IRS paper forms and have no income limit for eligibility.

Three steps to getting started:

Step 1: Gather your tax materialsCollect the tax materials needed to do your taxes and log on to Free File through the IRS website: www.IRS.gov/freefile. Here’s some of what you need:– A copy of last year’s tax return– Valid Social Security numbers for yourself, spouse and children– All income statements, i.e. W-2 forms, from all employers– Interest/dividend statements, i.e. 1099 forms– Form 1099-G showing any state refunds– Unemployment compensation amount

Step 2: Choose an optionFile your taxes using Free File’s brand-name tax software or online fillable forms. The “Help Me Choose A Company” option helps you pick the tax software that fits your needs. The software then helps guide you through the tax process. Fillable forms are electronic and perform basic math calculations, and are designed for people who are comfortable preparing their own paper tax returns.

Step 3: Prepare and e-file your returnE-file your return for free. No matter what option you choose, IRS and software providers use the most current technology to ensure tax information is encrypted, so it’s safe and secure when it’s transmitted.

Use e-file and direct deposit:

E-filing your return and selecting direct deposit are still the fastest way to get your refund. There’s even an IRS smart phone application, IRS2Go, that you can use to find out the status of your refund. You can also track your return with the “Where’s My Refund?” tool on the IRS website.

What if you can’t meet the April 15, 2013, filing deadline?

You can use either Free File software or online fillable forms to file an extension. Use Free File to complete and submit Form 4868. And then, return to Free File by October 15, 2013, to file your return.

The Free File software — designed to provide a fast, safe and free filing option — is available online 24/7, giving you the freedom to choose when and how you do your taxes.

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