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4.3: Filing Your Federal Taxes

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    Find out how to file your federal taxes, get an extension, and more.

    Key Tax Tips

    Find out the important factors to consider when doing your taxes.

    This infographic explains the important factors to consider when doing your taxes.

    This infographic explains the important factors to consider when doing your taxes. View a larger version of the infographic.

    File a Federal Income Tax Return

    The government collects taxes to pay its bills and provide public goods and services. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is the nation’s tax collection agency.

    The taxes you owe to the government are generally paid through withholding (money taken out of your paycheck), estimated tax payments, and payments made when you file your taxes each year.

    You may not have to file a federal income tax return if your income is below a certain amount. However, you must file a tax return to claim a refundable tax credit or a refund on income tax withheld.

    If you have to file a tax return:

    Tax Payment Information

    There are several ways to pay your federal taxes: direct pay, debit or credit card, electronic federal tax payment system, or check or money order. Find out how to make a tax payment.

    Tax Refund Information

    If you are expecting a refund, you can check your federal tax refund status online or call the Refund Hotline. If you have questions about the status of your refund within the first 21 days after filing electronically, the IRS will direct you to the online Where’s My Refund? tool.

    You can choose to receive your tax refund by direct deposit, U.S. Series I Savings Bonds, or paper check.

    Contact the IRS

    For more information, contact the IRS.

    Extension to File Your Tax Return

    Do you need more time to prepare your tax return?

    If you are unable to file your federal income tax return by the due date, you may be able to get an extension from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). But this does not grant you more time to pay your taxes.

    You may be able to get an automatic six-month extension to file your return. To do so, you must file IRS Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return by the due date for filing your calendar year return (usually April 15) or fiscal year return. For a Spanish version of this form, download IRS Form 4868sp.

    Special rules may apply if you are:

    • Living outside the United States.
    • Out of the country when your six-month extension expires.
    • Living in a combat zone or a qualified hazardous area.

    Get filing information about your tax return, including guidelines on extensions of time to file.

    IRS Imposter Scams

    You may get a call from someone pretending to be from the IRS who claims you owe taxes. This caller will typically demand immediate payment and threaten you with arrest or lawsuits for not paying. Individuals carrying out this fraud will also make the caller ID appear as if the IRS is calling. Learn the signs to watch out for and how to report IRS imposter scams.

    Signs of an IRS Imposter Scam

    The IRS will always contact you by mail before calling you about unpaid taxes and will never:

    • Demand immediate payment
    • Ask for a specific payment method, such as a prepaid debit card, gift card, or wire transfer
    • Threaten you with arrest or deportation for not paying your taxes
    • Request personal or financial information by email, texting, or any social media

    Report an IRS Imposter Scam

    Follow these steps if you get a call from someone claiming to be from the IRS asking for a payment and have not first been contacted by the IRS by mail:

    • If you owe federal taxes or think you might owe taxes, hang up and get helpful online tools from the IRS. You can also call the IRS about payment questions at 1-800-829-1040 or 1-800-829-4059 (TTY).
    • If you don’t owe taxes, report the scam to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) by calling 1-800-366-4484.
    • You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” to your complaint description.
    • Help keep others safe by reporting all unsolicited online messages claiming to be from the IRS (or related to their work) to
    • Learn how to protect yourself from and report other scams and fraud.

    1099 Income Statements

    Businesses and government agencies use Form 1099 to report various types of income other than wages, salaries, and tips to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

    Every business or agency must:

    • Complete a Form 1099 for each transaction.
    • Retain a copy for its records.
    • Send a copy to you and to the IRS. You should receive your copy by early February (or mid-to-late February for Form 1099-B).

    You must include this income on your federal tax return.

    Incorrect or Missing Form 1099

    If you do not agree with the information contained in your Form 1099, contact the business or agency that issued it.

    If you did not receive your Form 1099, contact the business or agency that should have issued it.

    Contact the IRS

    If you requested Form 1099 from a business or agency and did not receive it, contact the IRS.

    Federal Tax Filing Season

    The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) began accepting and processing federal tax returns for tax year 2016 on January 23, 2017. You have until April 18, 2017 to file your tax return unless you file for an extension.

    Help and Resources

    Get Tax Forms and Publications

    Federal Tax Forms

    You can get free tax forms and publications you need directly from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by downloading them from or ordering by phone at 1-800-829-3676. You can also get them from locations in your community, such as taxpayer assistance centers and libraries.

    Many forms and publications are available in multiple years and file formats, including Section 508 accessible PDFs and Braille or text formats.

    State Tax Forms

    Download your state’s tax forms and instructions and instructions for free

    Get Your W-2 Before Tax Time

    The Wage and Tax Statement, commonly known as a W-2 form, is an important document to have at tax time. This form shows the income you earned for the year and the taxes withheld from those earnings. If you have had several jobs over the year, you may have several W-2 forms to file your tax return. Employers must send you your W-2 by January 31 for the earnings from the previous calendar year of work.

    If you were an employee and haven’t received your W-2 by January 31 or the information is incorrect, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) offers some tips on what you can do. Employers that have questions about filing W-2 forms for your employees can check these resources on where, when, and how to file from the IRS.

    For more information, contact the Internal Revenue Service.

    IRS Mailing Addresses

    The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) provides mailing addresses for tax returns, non-return forms, applications, and payments. There are several mailing addresses; the correct one to use depends on the purpose of contact and the region of the country you are in:

    • Paper Tax Returns (with or without a payment)
    • Non-Return Forms (applications and payments)

    You can also check a form’s corresponding instructions for a mailing address.

    Contact the IRS

    For more information, contact the IRS.

    Taxpayer Identification Numbers (TINs)

    A Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) is an identification number that you need to include on returns, statements, and other tax-related documents.

    There are many types of TINs for a variety of tax situations:

    • Employer Identification Number (EIN) – This is also known as a federal tax identification number, and is used to identify a business.
      • Learn how to apply for an EIN.
      • If your business structure or ownership has changed, you may need a new EIN.
      • Learn about business taxes, the forms you need to file, and more.
    • Social Security Number (SSN) – You need this nine-digit number to get a job, receive Social Security benefits, and other government services.
    • Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) – This tax processing number is only available for certain nonresident and resident aliens, their spouses, and dependents who cannot get a SSN.
    • Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number (ATIN) – A temporary nine-digit number issued by the IRS to individuals who are in the process of legally adopting a U.S. citizen or resident child, but who cannot get an SSN for that child in time to file their tax return.
    • Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) – If you are a paid tax preparer you must use a valid Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) on returns you prepare.

    The Social Security Administration (SSA) issues a SSN and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issues all other TINs.

    Contributors and Attributions

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