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Taxes 2018: When they’re due, how to file online and more

With less than 50 days left to file, here’s what you need to know.

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Alina Bradford/CNET

There's no way to avoid it: tax season is here. With less than 50 days left to file (in most states), we present answers to some common questions about when to pay, how to pay, who to pay, where to send your payment -- and, if you happen to be so fortunate, when to expect your refund.

When are taxes due this year?

Your 2017 taxes are officially due on Tuesday, April 17, 2018. (April 15 falls on a Sunday this year, and the following Monday is a holiday, Emancipation Day.) Unless you've applied for an extension, you'll need need to e-file or postmark your individual tax return by 11:59 pm -- well, technically, you have until midnight -- on the 17th.

Among the many advantages of filing early, preventing someone else from filing fraudulently on your behalf is reason enough to get your taxes done as soon as possible.

How do I file my taxes online?

The IRS provides a list of free online tax prep software from providers such as eSmart, TaxSlayer and H&R Block. The only catch: it's free only if you qualify to use a 1040ez form. That means your tax situation needs to be relatively simple. You can use it if you make less than $100,000 annually, you don't itemize deductions and you don't own a business.

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A number of online tax software providers will help you file for free.

TurboTax

Of course, if you want to itemize deductions or have a more complex financial situation -- you run a business, have investments or generate rental income -- you'll have to pay for a higher tier of service, which can run a couple hundred of dollars. Still, for most people, even the most deluxe online package is far less expensive than hiring an authorized tax pro. And if you prefer to keep it old school, the IRS's online tax forms handle some but not all of the calculations for you and still allow you to e-file or print and mail.

When do I need to file my state taxes?

Most state tax returns are due on the same date (April 17, this year) as federal returns. That noted, there are a handful of states -- Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Louisiana and Virginia -- that have later deadlines

Can I file my state taxes online?

Many states have their own online tax platforms, which are usually free to use. TurboTax, H&R Block and most other online tax tools can also help you file your state return. They can import most of the salient information from a federal return they've already prepared, though they usually charge a fee. 

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IRS.gov

When will I get my tax refund?

How quickly you can expect to see your refund depends on how you file, when you file and which payment method you choose. Filing online and filing earlier will usually result in faster processing. The typical turnaround ranges from one to three weeks.

Selecting direct deposit as the payment method -- with the IRS depositing your refund directly into your bank account -- usually makes for the fastest turnaround. An e-Collect direct deposit, where your tax preparer's fee is deducted from your refund, may add a few more days to your wait. A paper check may take several weeks to arrive.

Where do I send my taxes?

If you file online, there's nothing to print out or mail but we recommend you save an electronic copy. Otherwise, you'll need to mail your return to the IRS. The specific mailing address depends on which tax form you use and which state you live in. (The IRS has published the complete list.) It's key to send your return to the right IRS office -- getting it wrong can have dire consequences and may result in a penalty or fine.

How do I send the IRS my tax payment?

If you're mailing your tax payment, you can elect to have the funds withdrawn directly from your bank account or include a personal check or money order. If you choose the latter, make it payable to "US Treasury" and include your name, address, phone number, social security number of ITIN). Under no circumstances should you mail cash to the IRS.

How do I check the status of my refund?

The IRS website has a handy web-based tool that lets you check the status of your refund. (There's also a mobile app, IRS2Go.) You can access your refund status 24 hours after e-filing or four weeks after mailing in a return. And to check your status, you'll need to provide your social security number or individual taxpayer number (ITIN), filing status and the exact amount of your refund. If your status is "received," the IRS has your return and is processing it. "Approved" means that your refund is on its way.

I have questions about my taxes. Can I call the IRS?

There are numerous ways to contact the IRS. In addition to a tax hotline for individuals (800-829-1040) and businesses (800-829-4933), you can chat live with a representative or send an email (allow up to 48 hours for a response).

Where can I find help with my taxes?

The IRS provides free tax prep help through a number of programs. The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program offers help to people who make less than $54,000, have disabilities or have limited facility with English. The Tax Counseling for the Elderly program specializes in tax issues that impact people who are 60 or older.

Taxpayers living abroad can contact the IRS's International Taxpayer Service Call Center at 267-941-1000 (Monday through Friday, 6 am to 11 pm ET).

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