Tax Help Is Here: Quick Answers to Your Burning Tax Questions for 2023
Tax Day is less than 24 hours away, which means it's time to stop procrastinating and finally file your 2022 federal income tax return.
We know it's not fun to do your taxes, but the deadline is looming, and we're here to help. Money has a ton of tax stories packed with expert advice that’ll make filing your 1040 positively painless — promise.
Here are 11 common questions (and answers) about the 2023 tax filing season:
Why is Tax Day not April 15 this year?
Good eye. Tax Day usually falls on April 15, but this year, that was a Saturday. Normally it’d just move to the following Monday… but that’s Emancipation Day in Washington, D.C. So the federal tax deadline got pushed to the next day: Tuesday, April 18.
Most states use that deadline, too, but there are a couple of exceptions. For instance, Louisiana state taxes aren’t due until May 15. If you live in a state with individual income taxes, make sure to double-check the date.
What time are taxes due?
Electronically filed tax returns are due at midnight local time, but it's best not to push it. If you log on at 11:50 p.m. to click submit and encounter a website error, that's going to cause you a lot of undue stress.
Physical tax returns are considered on time if they're postmarked by Tuesday. Slip your return in a USPS blue collection box or mail it at a postal branch — but make sure the envelope is properly addressed, has enough postage and its pickup time is before the deadline.
The U.S. Postal Service points out that some post offices have extended hours and late tax postmarking options. Call your nearby post office to find out its 2023 Tax Day hours.
Do I have to pay to file my taxes?
Probably not. An estimated 70% of U.S. taxpayers qualify to file their federal taxes for free through a government program called IRS Free File. If your adjusted gross income is $73,000 or less, you can access free guided tax prep on a name-brand site. All you have to do is answer a set of questions — the tax preparer will do the calculations and file your taxes without charging you. (You might be eligible to file your state taxes for free, as well, but details vary by provider.)
Above that $73,000 income threshold, the IRS provides a free set of fillable forms you can complete yourself. This requires a bit of knowhow, though.
Luckily, there are free options outside the IRS Free File program. TurboTax and H&R Block both offer free services for simple returns, though be careful clicking around: It’s easy to get upcharged. Other providers, like Cash App Taxes, don’t charge fees.
Is it too late to decrease my taxable income?
Actually, no. Taxpayers can make 2022 contributions to an individual retirement account, or IRA, until Tuesday.
You’re able to contribute up to $6,000 ($7,000 if you’re 50 or older) to all of your IRAs for 2022. Some traditional IRA contributions are tax-deductible, so you may qualify to bring down your taxable income for 2022 — in turn, decreasing your tax burden.
I got a state stimulus check. Am I going to get taxed on it?
Probably not. For context, there was a bit of a kerfuffle in February when the IRS told millions of people who received state stimulus checks in 2022 to hold off on filing their taxes while it figured out how to handle them. The IRS ultimately decided that the majority of folks who got these checks — also called rebates or inflation relief payments — don’t need to report them as income on their tax returns.
Whatever happened with that $600 Venmo rule I vaguely remember hearing about?
Basically, the IRS spent all of last year talking about how it was making a major change in the reporting threshold for 1099-Ks, a form previously sent by third-party payment networks to small business owners and gig workers who earned over $20,000 in over 200 transactions a year. It swore it was going to lower that threshold to $600 for 2022, meaning tons of taxpayers would get 1099-Ks from providers like Venmo and Etsy and have to figure out how to use them to file their taxes this spring.
At no point was the IRS going to randomly snoop on your Venmo requests. The rule change would have targeted businesses, not personal transactions, but it caused a lot of confusion among taxpayers and preparers. The IRS realized this, so in late December it quietly decided to delay implementation of the $600 rule to 2023.
Anyway, it’s important to point out that “the legal requirement for reporting income has not changed,” per the IRS. Regardless of whether you get a form, you still have to tell the government about all your income.
Wait, I have to report all income?
Yup. Uncle Sam wants to know about all your taxable earnings, even if they come from bribes, jury duty, drug deals, March Madness pools, crypto airdrops or buried treasure.
I’m getting a tax refund. How long before I get paid?
Chill out. The IRS issues most refunds within 21 days of receiving your tax return. The fastest way to get your money is to file electronically and choose direct deposit as the delivery method.
If you’re anxious to get your cash, you can track your tax refund by using the IRS’s appropriately-named Where’s My Refund? tool. You’ll need to input your Social Security number, tax filing status and precise refund amount. The tool updates once a day, usually overnight, so there’s no need to check every hour or anything.
My refund seems smaller this year. Did I do something wrong?
Nah, probably not. Many Americans got used to big refund checks during the pandemic because of special tax credits designed to get them through the worst of the COVID-19 crisis. But 2022 saw most of those, including the expanded child tax credit, sunset. Hence lower refunds.
It’s not just you. The average refund amount is down about 9% year over year, according to IRS filing statistics. At this time in 2022, the typical refund came out to $3,175; right now, it’s just $2,878. It might be a bummer to get less money back, but financial experts say that getting a small refund is not technically a bad thing.
What if I need help with — or extra time to do — my taxes?
No sweat. There’s a ton of free tax help available, including from the IRS itself. If you make under $58,000, speak limited English or have a disability, check out the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program; if you’re 60 or older, look into the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program. Separately, there’s AARP Foundation Tax-Aide, which provides assistance to anyone for free but focuses on taxpayers over 50 with low to moderate income.
If you’re looking at the calendar and thinking to yourself “there’s no way this is gonna get done,” you can request an extension on your taxes by submitting Form 4868, which will push back your tax due date automatically and free of charge. But remember: This only gives you an extra six months to file. Anything you owe is still due on Tuesday.
Am I going to get audited?
Probably not, but it's tough to say for sure without knowing your specific circumstances. On the whole, audit rates are extremely low — for the 2022 fiscal year, the IRS audited about 626,000 returns out of more than 164 million filed. That means the odds of getting audited were 0.38%, down from 0.41% the year before, according to an analysis from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a nonpartisan organization at Syracuse University.
But there are certain groups of people who were more likely to face IRS scrutiny than others; specifically, low-income taxpayers who claimed the earned income tax credit saw a higher-than-normal audit rate. Just 1 in every 100 millionaires, on the other hand, were audited.
That ties into a major political debate happening in Washington right now. Last year's Inflation Reduction Act included $80 billion in new IRS funding, with almost $46 billion earmarked to increase enforcement. Several Republican lawmakers have raised concerns that this will result in an uptick in audits of everyday people, but the Biden administration insists that the IRS will not increase audit rates for households making $400,000 a year or less.
Danny Werfel, the newly sworn-in IRS commissioner, confirmed his approach in testimony before the Senate Finance Committee last month, saying that "the audit and compliance priorities will be focused on enhancing IRS capabilities to ensure America’s highest earners comply with applicable tax law."
TL;DR: Do your taxes correctly, on time and to the best of your ability, but don't let audit nightmares keep you up at night.
More from Money:
6 Major Tax Changes That Could Affect Your Return and Refund This Year
When Are Taxes Due in 2023? Here Are the Deadlines You Need to Know