IR-2020-277, December 16, 2020 WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today encouraged taxpayers to take necessary actions now to help file federal tax returns timely and accurately in 2021. This is the fourth in a series of reminders to help taxpayers get ready for the upcoming tax filing season. A special page, updated and available on IRS.gov, outlines steps taxpayers can take to make tax filing easier in 2021. With continued social distancing, taxpayers can stay home and stay safe with IRS online tools and resources that help them find the information they need. These IRS.gov tools are easy to use and available 24 hours a day. Millions of people use them to find information about their accounts, get answers to tax questions or file and pay taxes. Free File Almost everyone can file electronically for free. The IRS Free File program, available only through IRS.gov or the IRS2Go app, offers brand-name tax preparation software packages at no cost. The software does all the work of finding deductions, credits and exemptions. It's free for those who earned $72,000 or less in 2020. Some of the Free File packages also offer free state tax return preparation. Taxpayers comfortable filling out tax forms electronically, can use Free File Fillable Forms, regardless of income, to file their tax returns either by mail or online. Choosing a preparer The IRS has several options for finding a tax preparer. One resource is Choosing a Tax Professional, which offers a wealth of information for selecting a tax professional. The Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications can help taxpayers find preparers in their area who currently hold professional credentials recognized by the IRS, or who hold an Annual Filing Season Program Record of Completion. Other online help The Interactive Tax Assistant answers general tax questions, including helping to determine if a type of income is taxable or if someone is eligible to claim certain credits and deductions. With changes to income and other life events for many in 2020, tax credits and deductions can mean more money in a taxpayer's pocket and thinking about eligibility now can help make tax filing easier next year. Taxpayers may qualify for credits like the Child Tax Credit and Child and Dependent Care Credit. Taxpayers whose dependent does not qualify for the CTC might be able to claim the Credit for Other Dependents. Individuals paying higher education costs for themselves, a spouse or a dependent, may be eligible to save some money with education tax credits or deductions. Additionally, low- to moderate-income taxpayers may qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit. Beginning in January 2021, the Interactive Tax Assistant will be updated to include answers to more tax law questions. Taxpayers can check the status of their refund using the Where's My Refund? tool. The status is available within 24 hours after the IRS receives their e-filed tax return or up to four weeks after they mailed a paper return. The Where's My Refund? tool updates once every 24 hours, usually overnight, so taxpayers only need to check once a day. The best and fastest way for taxpayers to get their tax refund is to have it direct deposited into their financial account. Taxpayers who don't have a financial account can visit the FDIC website for information to help open an account online. For more information about planning ahead, see Publication 5348, Get Ready to FilePDF, and Publication 5349, Year-Round Tax Planning is for EveryonePDF.