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  • Michael J. Conard, Jr. EA

IRS Launches Direct File: A New Era in Tax Preparation

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has introduced a significant change for taxpayers with its new "Direct File" campaign. This initiative, piloted successfully in 2024, offers taxpayers a free, online method to file federal tax returns directly with the IRS. With plans to make Direct File a permanent fixture starting in the 2025 tax season, this new option aims to simplify the tax preparation process and reduce costs for taxpayers.


#### What is Direct File?


Direct File is a digital platform designed by the IRS to allow eligible taxpayers to file their federal tax returns online without any cost. This new service emerged from a need to provide a more accessible and user-friendly filing option. During its 2024 pilot, over 140,000 taxpayers from 12 states utilized Direct File, giving the IRS valuable feedback and data to refine the service for a broader rollout.


The initiative is part of the IRS's broader strategy to modernize its services and improve taxpayer experience. By offering a direct, free filing option, the IRS aims to reduce the reliance on third-party tax software and preparers, which often come with fees and additional costs.


#### Pros of Direct File


**Cost Savings:** The primary benefit of Direct File is cost savings. Taxpayers can file their federal returns for free, eliminating the fees associated with commercial tax preparation software or professional services. This is particularly beneficial for residents of Green Bay and De Pere, where the cost of tax prep can add up, especially for those with straightforward tax situations.


**User-Friendly Interface

Direct File is designed to be user-friendly, with step-by-step guidance to help taxpayers navigate the complexities of their tax returns. The platform is accessible 24/7, offering convenience and flexibility for those with busy schedules.


**Accessibility

Direct File aims to make tax filing more accessible to a broader audience, including those who may not have the financial means to pay for tax preparation services. This inclusivity can significantly benefit lower-income households and individuals with simple tax returns.


**Data Security

Filing directly with the IRS reduces the number of third parties handling sensitive tax information, potentially enhancing data security and reducing the risk of data breaches.


#### Cons of Direct File


**Limited Scope

As of now, Direct File is primarily aimed at taxpayers with simple tax situations. Complex returns, involving multiple income streams, extensive deductions, or business income, may not be fully supported by the current system. This limitation means many taxpayers will still need to rely on professional tax prep services.


**Learning Curve

While Direct File is user-friendly, there is still a learning curve for those who are not tech-savvy or familiar with online tax filing. These individuals might find the process daunting and may still require assistance from tax professionals.


**State Tax Integration

Currently, Direct File focuses on federal tax returns. Although the IRS plans to expand its integration with state tax systems, as seen in the pilot with states like Arizona, California, Massachusetts, and New York, full nationwide integration is not yet achieved. Taxpayers in Green Bay and De Pere might still need separate solutions for their state taxes.


**Impact on Tax Professionals

For CPAs and tax professionals, the introduction of Direct File presents a potential reduction in the number of clients seeking basic tax prep services. However, it also provides an opportunity to focus on more complex tax situations and advisory services, where their expertise is invaluable.


Conclusion


The IRS's Direct File campaign represents a transformative step in tax preparation, offering a free, easy-to-use alternative for filing federal tax returns. While it brings significant benefits, such as cost savings and accessibility, it also has limitations that may not suit every taxpayer's needs. For residents of Green Bay and De Pere, staying informed about these developments is crucial. Utilizing Direct File could mean significant savings in both time and money, making the tax filing process more straightforward and less burdensome. As this service evolves, it holds the potential to greatly benefit taxpayers and reshape the landscape of tax preparation.

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