E-file, Free File 2011 are now available
Estimated tax payment #4 for 2010
is due Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2011

Free File is open for 2011 tax business

If your adjusted gross income for 2010 is $58,000 or less, you can prepare and file your taxes at no cost at Free File.

Free-file-graphic This partnership between the IRS and tax software manufacturers who are members of the Free File Alliance kicked off its ninth year today, Jan. 14.

During the formal announcement of Free File 2011, IRS senior executive David Williams, had some advice for all e-filers:

Submit your tax returns as soon as you can.

Despite the tax processing problems caused by the end-of-year passage of the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010, Williams said it's better not to wait. Just e-file your 1040 when you're ready and let your software worry about when the IRS can deal with the return.

"There's no need to wait to file," Williams said during the Friday afternoon telephone press conference. "If you're ready to file, go ahead and file and the tax software industry is prepared to essentially stockpile these returns and then send them when we're ready to accept them."

The IRS says that around 70 percent of the taxpaying public can use the Free File program. This year there are 16 vendors offering tax preparation and e-filing at the special IRS website.

And note that the $58,000 income threshold applies to all filing statuses.

If you're in the other 30 percent of taxpayers, you can give the IRS' fillable forms a look. These documents allow filers who are comfortable with what goes on their returns to open up the online forms, complete them right there on the computer screen and then e-file for free, too.

The fillable forms don't offer step-by-step filing walk-through that's part of commercial tax prep software. But the forms do carry data from associated schedules to the 1040 and do basic math, said Williams, thereby reducing some of the more common filing errors.

Of course, some folks won't be able to go electronic this year. If you claim the first-time homebuyer credit, for example, you'll have to send in an old fashioned return that includes acceptable documentation of your home purchase.

But if you can e-file, regardless of whether you use Free File, fillable forms or buy (or win!) tax software, do so. If your return is one that can be processed immediately by the IRS, e-filing it and choosing direct deposit of your refund could get the money in your account in 10 days or less.

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Be careful using Free Fillable Forms. When you try to print out your 1040 and other documents you get an error message that reads "An unexpected error has occured, please click ok to refresh your browser and try again" and then the program closes.

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