Tax season is right around the corner, and this year could be a doozy.
Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in December 2017, which means there's a host of new rules and regulations for the 2018 tax year. The laws were already complicated -- and now we have new tax rates, new rules for the standard deduction and a slew of other changes. Oh, you have questions? Sorry, .
Despite the fact that the IRS has closed its doors and phone lines, there are resources to help you navigate the process of filing your taxes for 2018. The IRS published a 12-page PDF covering the major changes that took effect in 2018, and there may be answers to some questions on the IRS website.
Plus, CNET has taken a fresh look atthis year. We present here some answers to 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?
For most people in the US, taxes for 2018 are officially due on Monday, April 15, 2019. The exception: if you live in Maine or Massachusetts, where the 15th is the Patriot's Day holiday, or the District of Columbia, where the 16th is Emancipation Day, you have until Wednesday, April 17 to file.
The IRS will usually allows taxpayers to file for an extension. This year, according to the instructions on Form 4868 ("Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File US Individual Income Tax Return"), taxpayers can apply for an extra 6 months to file -- making October 15, 2019 the due date. Taxpayers who will be out of the country on April 15, 2019, are eligible for a 60-day extension, until June 17, 2018.
Otherwise, you should plan to e-file or postmark your individual tax return by midnight on the 15th -- at the latest. Among the many advantages of filing early,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.
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 15, this year) as federal returns. That noted, some states -- including Maine and Massachusetts -- 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. Check outto work out which is best for you.
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 -- but given this year's government shutdown, all bets are off.
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 here.
It's vital that you 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 and 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?
Under normal circumstances, there are numerous ways to contact the IRS. While the government is shut down, however, all IRS offices are closed -- and there appears to be no one staffing the tax hotline for individuals (800-829-1040) or businesses (800-829-4933), the live chat or the agency's email account.
Where can I find help with my taxes?
There are plenty of online applications and services, and you can.
In addition, the IRS usually 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. That noted, it's currently unclear whether the government shutdown will impact the availability of these programs or the IRS's International Taxpayer Service Call Center, which is usually available at 267-941-1000, Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET.
: Self employed? You need to read this.
: Your epic Bitcoin gains are not exempt from tax, sorry.