How to File Your Federal Taxes

Taxes are due on April 15, 2019 (April 17 in Maine and Massachusetts). The new tax law has changed many forms, credits, and deductions. Check this page carefully before filing your federal income tax return.

Infographic: Tax Reform - Big Changes to Credits and Deductions for 2018

Learn the changes that affect you and your family under the tax reform law.

Infographic about the tax reform law's big changes to credits and deductions.

Infographic about the tax reform law's big changes to credits and deductions. View a larger version of the infographic.

  • The new tax law increases the standard deduction and child tax credit and eliminates or reduces other deductions.

    The law nearly doubles the standard deduction for most filers.

    {Deductions lower the amount of income that you pay tax on.}

    • Standard deduction is now $12,000 for individuals, $18,000 for heads of household, and $24,000 for married couples filing jointly.

    • If you used to itemize deductions, it may no longer be worth it. Your standard deduction may be more than your total itemized deductions now.

    The maximum Child Tax Credit has doubled to $2,000.

    {Tax credits reduce your tax bill dollar-for-dollar.}

    • More families will qualify as income limits increase to $200,000 for individual filers and $400,000 for married filing jointly.

    • Even if you don’t owe any tax, you can still get refunded up to $1,400 per child when you claim the child tax credit on your return.  

    There’s a new $500 credit for other dependents.

    Claim it for your children age 17 and older, including college students, and other qualifying relatives in your household.

    Many itemized deductions have changed.

    If you do itemize, check for new rules in each category. These are just a few.

    • The total deduction for state and local income, sales, and property taxes is now limited to $10,000.

    • Interest on a home equity loan is now deductible only if you use the money to build or renovate your home.   

    • Moving expenses, tax preparation fees, and job expenses are no longer deductible for most filers.

    The personal and dependent exemptions have been eliminated.

    {These exemptions lowered your taxable income, just as deductions do.}

    The increases in the standard deduction and the child tax credit may help offset the loss of the personal and dependent exemptions.

    Learn more about the changes and how they’ll affect you at

File a Federal Income Tax Return

The federal government uses taxes to pay its bills and provide public goods and services. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) collects the taxes you owe through:

  • Withholding from your paycheck

  • Estimated tax payments

  • Your tax annual return

Do I Need to File a Tax Return?

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

Steps to File a Tax Return

Note: The new tax law has changed the forms, credits, and deductions you may have used in the past. Learn the basics of the tax law changes.

  1. Gather your paperwork, including:

  2. Choose your filing status. Filing status is based on whether you're married. The percentage you pay toward household expenses also affects your filing status.

  3. See if you qualify for free tax return preparation.The IRS offers free tax help to people who:

    • Make $55,000 or less

    • Have disabilities

    • Are military service members and their families

    • Are Seniors

    • Have limited English ability

  4. Decide how you want to file your taxes. The IRS recommends using tax preparation software for the easiest and most accurate returns. You can use free or paid programs to calculate and file your taxes online or get paper forms to mail to the IRS. You can also hire a tax preparer to do your taxes for you.

  5. Calculate your taxes, credits, and deductions. Tax law changes may impact your credits, deductions, and the amount of taxes you owe.

    • Add up your sources of income. This includes salary, interest and investment earnings, and pension or retirement accounts.

    • See if you’re eligible for credits. Tax credits can be for expenses relating to education and family. Or, you can claim dependent credits for a qualifying child or relative. 

    • You may also qualify for deductions for things like mortgage interest or charitable donations. Credits and deductions can lower the amount of your taxable income. Note that in tax year 2018, the IRS increased the standard deduction but eliminated some other types of deductions.

  6. If you owe money, learn how to make a tax payment, including applying for a payment plan.

  7. File your taxes by April 15.

Find out how to check the status of your tax refund.

Contact the IRS for Tax Help

For the fastest information, the IRS recommends finding answers to your questions online. You can also call the IRS. This option works best for less complex questions. Keep in mind that wait times to speak with a representative may be long.

Do I Need to Pay Quarterly Estimated Taxes?

You may need to pay quarterly estimated taxes if you're self-employed or if not enough tax is taken out of your salary or pension. It can also apply to other earnings including alimony, interest, or dividends. Learn how to calculate your estimated taxes, find out when they’re due, and the penalty for underpaying.

IRS Mailing Addresses

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

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

Get Tax Forms and Publications

Federal Tax Forms

Federal tax forms have changed as a result of the new tax law. Get the new forms, instructions, and publications for free directly from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

The IRS can provide many forms and publications in accessible formats, including Section 508 accessible PDFs and Braille or text. They also have forms for prior tax years.

You can find the new tax forms in your community for free at

State Tax Forms

Download your state's tax forms and instructions for free.

Tax Filing Deadlines

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) began accepting and processing 2018 federal tax returns on January 28, 2019. The deadline to file federal taxes for most taxpayers was April 15, 2019, unless you filed for an extension. If you live in Maine or Massachusetts, you had until April 17, 2019 to complete your return.

Federal and state taxes usually have the same filing deadlines. To make sure you file on time, find out the tax filing due dates in your state. If you do not file and pay your taxes on time, you will be charged interest and a late payment penalty. For taxpayers due a refund, there is no penalty for filing a late return.

Tax Filing and Payment Help

If you owe money, you can pay your taxes online or over the phone. If the IRS owes you money instead, you can receive your tax refund by direct deposit, U.S. Series I Savings Bonds, or paper check.

Extension to File Your Tax Return

If you can’t file your federal income tax return by the due date, you may be able to get a six-month extension from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This does not grant you more time to pay your taxes. To estimate your taxes and file an extension:

  1. Fill out IRS Form 4868, the “Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.” 

  2. On the form, use the instructions for estimating the taxes you owe. Include your payment to avoid paying penalties and interest.

  3. You typically must file the extension form and your estimated payment by April 15 or by the due date of your fiscal year return. 

For a Spanish version of this form, download IRS Form 4868(SP).

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 tax filing information, including guidelines on filing extensions.

Get Your W-2 Before Tax Time

The Wage and Tax Statement, 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.

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

For more information, contact the IRS. Wait times to speak with a representative may be long.

1099 Income Statements

Businesses and government agencies use 1099 forms to report various types of income other than wages, salaries, and tips to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Learn about the types of Form 1099, what to do if you notice any errors, and how to get a copy if you didn’t receive one. 

Common Types of Form 1099 

  • 1099-MISC for contracting and freelance work, gambling and prize winnings, and more
  • 1099-INT for bank account interest
  • 1099-DIV for investment distributions and dividends
  • 1099-R for retirement account distributions from 401(k) accounts, IRAs, Thrift Savings Plans, annuities, and pensions 
  • 1099-S for real estate sales income

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-February for Form 1099-B).

You must include this income on your federal tax return.

Incorrect or Missing Form 1099

Contact the business or government agency if:

  • Any of the reported income or information on your form is incorrect
  • You did not receive your Form 1099 

Contact the IRS

If you requested Form 1099 from a business or agency and didn’t receive it, contact the IRS. Wait times to speak with a representative may be long.

Check Your Tax Withholding

Withholding is the amount of income tax your employer pays on your behalf from your paycheck. Keep in mind, the new tax law has changed tax rates, credits, and deductions, and could affect your withholding. If you don’t withhold enough tax, you could face a penalty.

Use the IRS Withholding Calculator to estimate your 2019 income tax and compare it with your current withholding. You’ll need your most recent pay stubs and income tax return.

The results from the calculator can help you figure out if you need to fill out a new Form W-4 for your employer or make an estimated tax payment to the IRS before the end of the year.

Filing Tax Returns When Living Abroad

Who Files

  • U.S. citizens or resident aliens (Green Card holders) living abroad must pay U.S. income tax on their worldwide income.
  • The rules for filing tax returns, paying estimated taxes, or estate taxes are generally the same whether you are in the U.S. or abroad. Get information for taxpayers living abroad.

How to File

When to File

Where to File

  • If you’re living outside the U.S., you can mail your return or use e-file.
  • Learn where to mail your return if you are expecting a refund or if you owe money to the IRS.

Where to Get Tax Preparation Help While Living Abroad

Taxpayer service is no longer available at foreign posts of duty. Instead, use the International Taxpayer Service Call Center.

Find More Resources for Taxpayers Living Abroad

Nonresidents Filing Tax Returns in the U.S.

Who Files 

You will need to file a U.S. tax return depending on your:

Review this list of five situations to learn more about who must file

How to File

Find More Resources

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Last Updated: September 24, 2019