The filing season is about to begin

January 29, 2013 3:57:04 AM PST
A month ago, "fiscal cliff" talks pretty much brought the federal government to a standstill. Part of the result was a delay in this year's tax filing season. Both I.R.S. and the private companies which offer tax preparation software got a late start.

Consequently, January 30th is the official start of the filing season for your 2012 return. I.R.S. Spokesman David Stewart told Action News that last year set a record.

More than four out of five taxpayers used some form of electronic filing. If you use a software program, it virtually assures that your return will be complete and mistake-free

If you also allow the program to file your return electronically, you'll get an e-mail confirmation that your return has been received, and another a few days later affirming its accuracy.

If you're due a refund and most people who file this time of year could have that money in your bank account in as little as three weeks if you choose direct deposit.

You don't even need to go to a store and buy tax preparation software. If you visit the I.R.S. website, you can access a page that will show you a list of providers.

You can actually "shop" them right from that page and find the provider best for you. The overwhelming majority of taxpayers can e-file for free using the software and preparation itself might be free as well.

Should you file the old-fashioned way, writing up a return on paper then physically mailing that at a post office, a refund check this time of year could take four to six weeks to reach you.

People who file in mid-April could wait far longer.

The I.R.S website also lets you research tax questions, e-mail a technician if you need more information, and both read and download every single form and instruction booklet the agency publishes. If you like, you may type in information on the forms, and then both save a copy to your computer and e-file what you prepare. It's all available around the clock at the I.R.S. website.

E-filing providers are listed at Do-Your-Federal-Taxes-for-Free. Most taxpayers may use their services for free.

If you prefer, I.R.S. also has a toll-free hotline staffed by its own technicians. They're available to help you at 1-800-TAX-1040...1-800-829-1040.

If you need forms, you may order those at 1-800-TAX-FORM. 1-800-829-3676. This year's filing season ends April 15th, when Pennsylvania and New Jersey state returns are also due.

Delaware state returns are due by April 30th but Delaware residents' federal returns are due by April 15th.

If you need more time to accumulate filing information, you may receive an automatic six-month extension by filing federal form 4868. States also accept a copy of this form. But note that it's an extension of time to file a final return, not to pay what you project you owe.

If you end up owing significant taxes, penalties and interest may be assessed. But thanks to the latest technology, taxing agencies have relationships with online companies which accept credit cards.

Thanks to these third-party providers, you may be able to "charge" your taxes if you can't pay in cash. The same tax information websites and phone lines have information about these, although they do not endorse any service.