Filing Your Federal Taxes

Find out how to file your federal taxes, get an extension, and more.

Infographic: Key Tax Tips

Find out the important factors to consider when doing your taxes.

This infographic explains the important factors to consider when doing your taxes.

This infographic explains the important factors to consider when doing your taxes. View a larger version of the infographic.

Key Tax Tips

Things to consider when filing your tax return include credits and deductions, filing options, sources of income, and more.

Getting married, buying a house, or other life events can affect your taxes. Learn the keys to doing your taxes:

Calculator with a Receipt Roll 

  • Receipt roll message: Stay on the alert for the latest scams and fraud, including tax ID theft, phishing emails, and dishonest tax professionals!
  • Calculator screen message: 1040.
  • Parentheses symbol (): Gather your tax forms and paperwork: 
    • W-2s and 1099 income, 1095-A for health insurance
    • Interest statements, receipts, mileage
  • Subtraction sign (-): Check for deductions and credits:
    • Charitable contributions, education and child care expenses
    • Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
  • Addition sign (+): Add up your sources of income:
    • Salary, interest, investments, and retirement accounts
  • Division sign (÷): If you owe money, you may be able to divide the payments over time with an IRS installment agreement.
  • Help symbol (?): Get help from the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs.
  • Equal sign (=): Choose how to file your taxes:
    • Online (IRS Free File, paid software, or e-file provider)
    • Mailed paper return
    • Tax professional
  • Addition/subtraction sign (+/-): Do you owe money or get a refund?

Get more tax information at

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File a Federal Income Tax Return

The government collects taxes to pay its bills and provide public goods and services. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is the nation’s tax collection agency.

The taxes you owe to the government are generally paid through withholding (money taken out of your paycheck), estimated tax payments, and payments made when you file your taxes each year.  

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

Find out if you have to file a tax return.

Follow these steps to file a tax return:

  1. Determine your filing status - Your marital status and how much your household members pay towards keeping up a home can help you figure out your correct filing status. 
  2. See if you qualify for free tax return preparation - The IRS offers free tax help to low-income individuals, military servicemembers and their families, persons with disabilities, the elderly, or taxpayers with limited English.
  3. Choose the simplest form for your tax situation -  Determine the correct form to use to file your return. If you file your return using IRS e-file, the system will automatically decide which form you need.
  4. Figure your taxes and credits - Add up your sources of income, such as your salary, interest earned from your banking or investment accounts, and your pension or retirement-related accounts. Check to see if you are eligible for credits and deductions, including charitable contributions, education, and child care expenses.
  5. Claim your dependents and exemptions - It's important to understand the rules on claiming dependents (a qualifying child or relative) and exemptions (deductions from you and your dependents' taxable income).
  6. Determine if you need to pay quarterly estimated taxes - Find out if you need to pay taxes on income that is not subject to withholding, such as self-employment, interest, and dividends. 
  7. File your taxes online or mail your paper tax return - Choose the filing method that best suits your needs: online,  a mailed paper return, or through a tax professional. 

Tax Payment Information

There are several ways to pay your federal taxes: direct pay, debit or credit card, electronic federal tax payment system, or check or money order. Find out how to make a tax payment.

Tax Refund Information

If you are expecting a refund, you can check your federal tax refund status online or call the Refund Hotline. If you have questions about the status of your refund within the first 21 days after filing electronically, the IRS will direct you to the online Where's My Refund? tool.

You can choose to receive your tax refund by direct deposit, U.S. Series I Savings Bonds, or paper check.

For other tax information, contact the IRS.

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Tax Filing Deadlines

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) began accepting and processing federal tax returns for tax year 2016 on January 23, 2017. The deadline to file federal taxes was April 18, 2017, unless you filed for an extension.

Federal and state taxes usually have the same filing deadlines. 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

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Extension to File Your Tax Return

Do you need more time to prepare your tax return?

If you are unable to file your federal income tax return by the due date, you may be able to get an extension from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). But this does not grant you more time to pay your taxes.

You may be able to get an automatic six-month extension to file your return. To do so, you must file IRS Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return by the due date for filing your calendar year return (usually April 15) or fiscal year return. For a Spanish version of this form, download IRS Form 4868sp.

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 extensions of time to file.

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IRS Imposter Scams

IRS imposter scams occur when someone contacts you, pretending to work for the IRS. The imposter may contact you by phone, email, postal mail, or even a text message. There are two common types of scams:

  • Tax collection - You receive a phone call or letter, claiming that you owe taxes. They will demand that you pay the amount immediately, often with a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. They may even threaten to arrest you if you don’t pay.

  • Verification - You receive an email or text message that requires you to verify your personal information. The message often includes a hyperlink phrase “click here” or a button to a fraudulent form or website.

Report IRS Imposter Scams

Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) if you believe that an IRS imposter has contacted you. Report IRS imposter scams online or by calling 1-800-366-4484. Forward email messages that claim to be from the IRS to

You can also report IRS imposter scams to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).

Tips to Avoid IRS Imposter Scams

There are things to look out for to prevent being a victim of an IRS imposter scam.


  • Beware if someone calls, claiming to be from the IRS. The IRS will always contact you by mail before calling you about unpaid taxes.

  • Ask a caller to provide their name and badge number, and callback number. Then call TIGTA at 1-800-366-4484 to determine if the caller is an IRS employee with a legitimate need to contact you. If the person legitimately is from the IRS, call them back. Otherwise report it to the IRS.

  • Become familiar with what fraudulent IRS email messages look like. Review a sample IRS phishing email.

  • Verify the number of the letter, form, or notice on the IRS website.

  • Be suspicious of threats. The IRS won’t threaten to have police arrest you for not paying a bill.


  • Don’t give in to demands to pay money immediately. Be especially suspicious of demands to wire money or pay with a prepaid debit card.

  • Don’t trust the name or phone number on a caller ID display that shows “IRS.” Scammers often change the name that shows on caller ID.

  • Don’t click on any links in email or text messages to verify your information.

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1099 Income Statements

Businesses and government agencies use Form 1099 to report various types of income other than wages, salaries, and tips to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). 

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-to-late February for Form 1099-B).

You must include this income on your federal tax return.

Incorrect or Missing Form 1099

If you do not agree with the information contained in your Form 1099, contact the business or agency that issued it.

If you did not receive your Form 1099, contact the business or agency that should have issued it. 

Contact the IRS

If you requested Form 1099 from a business or agency and did not receive it, contact the IRS.

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Get Tax Forms and Publications

Federal Tax Forms

You can get free tax forms and publications you need directly from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by downloading them from or ordering by phone at 1-800-829-3676. You can also get them from locations in your community, such as taxpayer assistance centers and libraries.

Many forms and publications are available in multiple years and file formats, including Section 508 accessible PDFs and Braille or text formats.

State Tax Forms

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

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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.

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

For more information, contact the Internal Revenue Service.

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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.

For more tax information, contact the IRS.

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Taxpayer Identification Numbers (TINs)

A Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) is an identification number that you need to include on returns, statements, and other tax-related documents.

There are many types of TINs for a variety of tax situations:

The Social Security Administration (SSA) issues a SSN and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issues all other TINs.

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Last Updated: November 24, 2017