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Susan Harley's picture

The countdown to Tax Day is on!

If you live in Arizona, California, Florida, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Texas, Tennessee, South Dakota, Washington, or Wyoming and, like many of us, have not yet filed your taxes, I have some good news for you: you might be eligible to use a new free online tax filing software from the IRS.

The free price tag for the Direct File software is welcome news since the IRS estimates the average amount individuals spend for tax prep is around $150 per year. That’s money that goes directly into the hands of greedy corporations. What’s more, it’s often money paid out by folks who have the least to spend.

Since it’s a pilot program, the Direct File tool is meant to be limited in scope, but many filers will be able to use it right now – at no cost – if they have simple tax situations. W-2 wage earners and Social Security and unemployment recipients, for example, are all income types that are eligible.

Direct File allows the standard deduction but also deductions for student loan interest and educator expenses. It’s no wonder organizations that work with teachers and students are cheering Direct File.

Families who claim the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit, which are not used by as many people as could receive them, are also eligible to use Direct File. In fact, the tool is meant to increase the uptake of these vital credits that help tens of millions of families make ends meet.

But, unlike existing free tax filing options, the IRS’s question-based software is not limited to people of more modest means. Depending on your tax situation, you can make up to $200,000 ($250,000 combined income for married couples filing together) and still be eligible to use the free online software.

Mobile-friendly, available in English and Spanish, and with live support from IRS, Direct File is intended to take the hassle out of filing taxes. It’s about time! Americans spend an average of nine hours filing their taxes, leading to stress and headaches as people struggle with the complexities that often lead them to pay for tax preparation services.

Direct File is also an important option for anyone uncomfortable with the reality that tax prep companies shared private tax information with Meta (which owns Facebook) and Google. The “direct” part of its name means the sensitive financial information filed with your taxes goes straight to the government, not through a corporate middleman.

Given all of its benefits for filers, it’s not surprising people love the idea of Direct File – polls in key states showed a whopping 90-95% support. The first user of Direct File called it “just so darn easy to understand.” In my book, when it comes to taxes, you can’t have a higher compliment.

If you live in one of the 12 pilot states, you should see what all the much-deserved hype is about and check out to see if you qualify.

But no matter what state you live in, you can still join the fight to ensure this free online software is ultimately available to everyone in America. The success and continued viability of the program depends on people using it. There’s no guarantee the Treasury Department will keep it around. We deserve a future where Direct File is pre-populated with wage and other data held by the IRS. Many countries already have return-free filing, where the government handles your tax return for you and you just have to approve it.

So please help get out the word! Post about Direct File on your social media accounts or text a friend. Write a letter-to-the-editor or hang a flyer up at your church. Call your Representative, Senators, Mayor, and Governor and tell them to publicize Direct File. Need some inspiration? Check out some sample materials here.

Direct File stands as proof that American tax filers don’t need to shell out their hard-earned cash to profit hungry corporations. Let’s make sure it stays that way.

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