The IRS’s new free tax filing website is ready to use

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The IRS’s new Direct File website, a free site for filing a tax return, will open to the public in the coming days, the IRS announced Wednesday. But anyone who hopes to be among the first to use it will have to get lucky and check the website during limited and unannounced windows at the outset.

After a few weeks of testing, the site will be available at any time or day, to any taxpayer in the participating states who wants to use it to file.

The new site aims to give taxpayers a free government-provided option for filing their taxes online, rather than paying for commercial tax software or hiring a tax preparer. It’s a high-profile effort by the Biden administration to change the face of tax filing — and it already has plenty of supporters and detractors, even before it opens up.

Steps for using Direct File

1. Go to the Direct File website and check whether you are eligible. For this tax season, Direct File will work in only 12 states and won’t cover all tax situations. For example, you can’t use it if you are self-employed, if you have wages above $200,000 or if you want to itemize deductions.

The 12 states are: Arizona, California, Florida, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Wyoming.

2. Sign up for ID.me. You’ll need to use this identity verification tool before you prepare your tax return. Some users find it cumbersome.

3. Check the Direct File website in the days to come. The IRS’s announcement Wednesday did not say when exactly the website will be open to new users, only that it would work for “short, unannounced windows of time” so the agency can test how it works. The site was built over the past several months by government employees from the IRS and the U.S. Digital Service, who have emphasized the need for caution. (Remember the rollout of healthcare.gov? Or the jammed websites for signing up for coronavirus vaccines?) So far, it has been open to only about 1,200 government employees as early users.

4. If you happen to check the site on a day that it’s open, you’re in. You can come back to keep working on your tax return any time, whether it’s an open window or not, the IRS says.

5. If you can’t access the site now, you can always wait a few weeks, until the point when the site will be open at all times. You can also consider many other ways to file your taxes free.

[Are you filing your taxes with Direct File? The Post wants to hear from you.]

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