Information About Federal Taxes

 

Tax information can be hard to understand in any language. It can be even harder if the information isn't offered in your preferred language.

We are working to provide our tax resources in more languages. In the meantime, we've created this guide to help you find the information you need to pay your taxes and file a federal tax return.

Most links on this page go to English content.

On this page, you will find information on these topics:

Your Rights as a Taxpayer

Every taxpayer has a set of fundamental rights they should be aware of when dealing with the IRS. To help taxpayers interacting with the IRS understand their rights, the agency outlines them in Publication 1, Your Rights as a Taxpayer PDF.

Who Needs to File

Most U.S. citizens and most people who work in the United States need to pay taxes on the income they earn above a set minimum amount. Even if you make less than the minimum, you may want to file your taxes. To find out whether or not you should file a tax return, see Do I Need to File a Tax Return.

Employees Who Receive a Form W-2

If you earn wages working for a business, your employer should give you a Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, that shows your total income and withholding. If you receive a Form W-2, you may want to file a tax return because your employer paid taxes for you, and you may owe less tax than you paid.

Gig Economy Workers

Gig economy workers earn income providing on-demand work, services or goods, often through a digital platform such as an app or website. You must pay tax on income you earn from this kind of work. The Gig Economy Tax Center will give you the information you need to comply with the tax laws.

Self-Employed

You are self-employed if any of the following apply to you:

  • You carry on a trade or business as a sole owner or an independent contractor
  • You are a member of a partnership that carries on a trade or business
  • You are in business for yourself (including a part-time business)

If you are self-employed, you need to pay income tax, so you are generally required to file an annual tax return and pay estimated tax every quarter.

You also must generally pay self-employment tax. This is a social security and Medicare tax primarily for people who work for themselves. Your self-employment tax payments contribute to your coverage under the Social Security system. Social Security coverage provides you with retirement benefits, disability benefits, survivor benefits, and medical insurance (Medicare) benefits.

Business Owners

Our Small Business and Self-Employed Tax Center offers tax information for taxpayers who file Form 1040 or 1040 SR, Schedules C, E, F or Form 2106, as well as, small businesses with assets under $10 million.

Pay Your Tax When You Earn Your Income

Federal income tax must be paid as you earn or receive income during the year, either through withholding or estimated tax payments. If you don't pay enough tax through withholding and estimated tax payments, you may be charged a penalty.

Tax Withholding

If you're an employee, your employer probably withholds income tax from your paycheck and pays it to the IRS in your name.

The amount of tax your employer withholds from your regular pay depends on:

  • The amount you earn
  • The information you give your employer on Form W-4, Employee's Withholding Certificate

Use our Tax Withholding Estimator to check your withholding and make sure you are having enough withheld to cover your tax bill.

Estimated Taxes

If you are in business for yourself, you generally need to make estimated tax payments.

You may also need to make estimated tax payments if you expect to owe $1,000 or more when you file. This might happen if you are sole proprietor or partner in a business, or if you are a gig economy worker.

You may be charged a penalty if your estimated tax payments are late, even if you are due a refund when you file your tax return.

Filing for You and Your Family

Get information on how to file an individual tax return for you and your family.

When to File

The tax filing and payment deadline for individuals and families is most commonly April 15. See our page on When to File for information on exceptions and extensions to the filing deadline.

What You Need to File

Taxpayer Identification Number

A taxpayer identification number is required on all of your tax-related documents.

Most taxpayer identification numbers are Social Security numbers.

If you are not eligible for a Social Security number, you must use an individual taxpayer identification number, or ITIN. ITINs are issued only for federal tax filing and reporting.

An ITIN does not:

  • Authorize you to work in the U.S.
  • Make you eligible for Social Security benefits
  • Qualify you for the Earned Income Tax Credit

How to File

Electronic Filing

Electronic filing – or e-filing – is when you use commercial tax preparation software to send your income tax return to the IRS over the internet.

If you e-file your tax return, you will usually receive your tax refund within 3 weeks of the date we receive your return – even faster if you choose to have your refund deposited into your bank account. We have several e-file options, including Free File.

Free File

With Free File, you can prepare and file your federal income tax return for free using tax preparation and filing software.

Special Taxpayers

Military and veterans

Members and veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces have special tax situations and benefits – including access to MilTax, a program that generally offers free tax return preparation and filing. We offer tax information for members of the military to help you understand how those provisions affect you and your taxes, whether you are active duty, reserve, or veteran.

International taxpayers

Your tax obligations as an international individual taxpayer depend on whether you are a U.S. citizen, a resident alien, or a non-resident alien.

If you are a U.S. citizen or resident alien, your worldwide income is subject to U.S. income tax, regardless of where you reside.

Nonresident aliens are taxed only on their income from sources within the United States and on certain income connected with the conduct of a trade or business in the United States.

Filing for Your Business

What You Need to File

Employer Identification Number

Most businesses – and all employers – need an Employer Identification Number, or EIN, in order to file taxes. You can apply for an EIN online and get your number immediately.

Business Taxes

The structure of your business determines what business taxes you must pay and how you pay them.

Remember, you must pay your taxes on your income by making regular estimated tax payments during the tax year.

Business Income Tax

All businesses except partnerships must file an annual income tax return. Partnerships file an information return.

Which form you use depends on how your business is organized. Refer to Business Structures to find out which forms you must file based on the business entity you established.

Employment Taxes

If you have employees, you will need to pay employment taxes. Employment taxes include:

  • Social Security and Medicare taxes
  • Federal income tax withholding
  • Federal unemployment tax

Excise taxes

You may need to pay excise tax if your business:

  • Manufactures or sells certain products
  • Operates certain kinds of businesses
  • Uses various kinds of equipment, facilities, or products
  • Receives payment for certain services

International Businesses

Foreign businesses with activities in the U.S., or domestic businesses with activities outside the U.S., must meet specific requirements for international businesses.

Get Help Preparing Your Tax Return

Free Tax Help for Qualified Taxpayers

Free tax help is available in-person at over 10,000 sites nationwide through our IRS-certified tax preparation volunteer programs. You can also get help online through IRS Free File.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offers free basic income tax return preparation to help people who have:

  • Low to moderate incomes
  • Disabilities
  • Limited English proficiency

Tax Counseling for the Elderly

The Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program offers free tax help for all taxpayers, particularly those who are 60 years of age and older. TCE specializes in questions about pensions and retirement-related issues unique to seniors.

Hire a Tax Professional

If you need someone to prepare your tax return, you can also choose a tax professional.

This is an important decision. You trust your tax professional with your most personal information. They know about your marriage, your income, your children, your Social Security numbers and the details of your financial life.

Most tax professionals provide outstanding service. But it is possible to choose the wrong person to prepare your return. Be sure to check our tips for choosing a tax preparer.

Refunds

Direct Deposit

If you are due a refund on the money you've paid toward your taxes, choose direct deposit when you file. It's the fastest way to get your tax refund. It's free, and it's secure.

You can direct deposit your refund into up to three bank accounts. When you use direct deposit, there's no risk of having your paper check stolen or lost.

Track Your Refund

Where's my Refund? is an online tool that will track your tax refund. To use the tool, you will need your Social Security number or ITIN, your filing status and the exact amount of your refund.

We issue most refunds in less than 21 days. You should only call us if:

  • You e-filed your tax return more than 21 days ago
  • You mailed your paper return more than 6 weeks ago
  • The Where's My Refund? tool tells you to contact the IRS

Payment Options

You can pay your taxes online, by phone or with your mobile device using the IRS2Go app. Visit our Payments page to learn more.

Get Help With the IRS

Tax Scams

Scammers try to take your money or your personal information. Stay alert and avoid getting tricked by a tax scam.

The IRS will never:

  • Contact you by email, text message or social media to ask for your personal or financial information.
  • Call to demand immediate payment. Generally, the IRS will first mail you a bill if you owe taxes.
  • Demand that you use a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer.
  • Threaten to bring in police or other law enforcement to have you arrested for not paying.
  • Threaten to take away your driver's license, business licenses, or immigration status. Threats like these are common tactics scam artists use to trick victims.
  • Demand that you pay without giving you a chance to question or appeal the amount you owe.
  • Call to tell you that you're getting a tax refund you don't expect.

Identity Theft

Tax-related identity theft happens when someone steals your personal information – such as your Social Security number or ITIN – to file a tax return and claim a fraudulent refund.

Know the signs of identity theft and take immediate action if you are a victim to protect your data and identity.

Disaster Relief

When there is a federally-declared disaster, we provide disaster assistance and emergency relief to help individuals and businesses recover financially.

We also offer tips on how to prepare for disaster so you can protect yourself, your family and your business.

Taxpayer Advocate Service

The Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) is an independent organization within the IRS that helps taxpayers and protects taxpayers' rights. TAS offers you help if:

  • Your tax problem is causing a financial difficulty
  • You've tried and been unable to resolve your issue with the IRS, or
  • You believe an IRS system, process, or procedure just isn't working as it should.

If you qualify for TAS assistance, which is always free, they will do everything possible to help you.

Visit the Taxpayer Advocate Service online or call 877-777-4778.

Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic

Low Income Taxpayer Clinics (LITCs) are independent from both the IRS and TAS. LITCs represent individuals whose income is below a certain level and who need to resolve tax problems with the IRS.

LITCs can represent taxpayers in:

  • Audits,
  • Appeals, and
  • Tax collection disputes before the IRS and in court.

If English is your second language, LITCs can provide information about taxpayer rights and responsibilities in different languages.

LITC services are offered for free or a small fee.

For more information or to find an LITC near you, visit Low Income Taxpayer Clinics or download IRS Publication 4134, Low Income Taxpayer Clinic List PDF. You can also get a copy of this publication by calling the IRS toll-free at 800-829-3676.

Your Tax Information

See Your Tax Account

Your IRS Account gives you secure access to information about your federal tax account. Use your Account to access your tax records online, review your payment history, and see information from the current year tax return as you originally filed it.

Get a Transcript of Your Taxes

If you need a copy of your original tax return information, use Get Transcript. Your transcript shows most line items from your tax return. If you need your AGI – or adjusted gross income – to prove your identity to the IRS, you can find it on your transcript.

Answers to Your Tax Questions

Tax Topics

We maintain a list of Tax Topics that provide general tax information for businesses and individuals. Tax Topics are available in Spanish, Chinese (traditional), Korean, Russian and Vietnamese.

Interactive Tax Assistant

Our Interactive Tax Assistant is an online tool that will answer your tax law questions. It covers a wide range of topics, including:

  • What income is taxable
  • Whether you qualify for certain tax credits
  • How to determine your filing status
  • Who you can claim as a dependent on your tax return

Earned Income Tax Credit Assistant

If you worked last year but earned a low or moderate income, you may qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). With this tax credit, you can still earn a refund even if you don't owe any tax.

Use the EITC Assistant tool to see if you qualify.

Interpretation Services

If you can't find the answers to your tax questions on IRS.gov, we can offer you help in more than 350 languages with the support of professional interpreters. Call 800-829-1040, where you can reach an IRS assistor who can:

  • Provide an interpreter over the phone, or
  • Schedule an appointment for you at one of our local Taxpayer Assistance Centers so you can get help face-to-face.