Taxpayers can get a jump on preparing their 2013 returns beginning this week, but will have to wait until Jan. 31 to begin filing tax returns.

The Internal Revenue Service announced Friday that software from Free File companies is available for the majority of taxpayers.

“In Georgia, we expect 3.8 million returns to be filed electronically, in which 70 percent of Georgia tax filers are eligible to use Free File,” IRS spokesman Mark Green said.

The IRS said that the filing season was delayed due to critical system testing following last year’s partial government shutdown.

“Many tax preparers and tax software companies are now open for return preparation, including Free File,” Green said. “If you plan to get a head start on your taxes, remember to e-file. Electronic filing will allow software companies to hold your return and to automatically send it to the IRS on Jan. 31.”

The agency said there is no advantage to filing by paper. About 100 million individual taxpayers and families that earn $58,000 or less are eligible to use the free software or online-fillable forms.

The IRS also offers services to taxpayers preparing their own returns at IRS.gov, including updates on refunds, videos with tax tips and other information.

Free File allows is a public-private partnership that allows taxpayers to do federal tax returns using brand-name software. The fourteen companies have partnered with the IRS for the 11 years. Nearly 40 million taxpayers have used it.

To use Free File:

  • At IRS.gov/freefile, select the “Free File Software” button. Each of the 14 Free File companies sets specific offers – generally based on income, state residency and age – to use their software. If your income is $58,000 or less, you will find at least one, if not more, offers available to you.
  • You can review each of the 14 company offers or use the IRS “Help Me Find Free File Software” tool. Free File is for federal returns but most companies also offer state tax return preparation, some for free.
  • If your income was more than $58,000, you can still do your taxes and e-file them beginning Jan. 31. Just select the “Free File Fillable Forms” button. Free File Fillable Forms is the electronic version of IRS paper forms, and it is best for people doing their own taxes.

© 2014 The Moultrie Observer (Moultrie, Ga.)