What does it mean to file taxes?

“Filing taxes” is the process of sending your information about your income to the Internal Revenue Service, aka “the IRS”. That’s a department of the U.S. government that’s responsible for making sure people pay taxes or get back any money that the government owes them. You send this information to them on a document called a “tax return” or a Form 1040. For many it is a mandatory process, but for many households with little or no income it is optional. However, there are lots of tax credits (aka cash) that you can ONLY receive if you file your taxes. Otherwise, the government just keeps the money that your family deserves.

You don’t have to “owe taxes” to file, and you don’t even have to have made any money to file taxes! Most years if you made $0 it isn’t worth it to file, but this year there are policies in place to get families back thousands even if they made $0. For example, with $0 in income this year you can still get any stimulus check money you are owed, get the Child Tax Credit for your children, or even use your 2019 income to get the Earned Income Tax Credit on your 2021 taxes. So, it’s definitely worth it to file!

There are two main ways you can get your info to the IRS – via paper or electronically. If you want to send the info electronically (which is much faster and safer) you will either use a software program (like TurboTax, TaxSlayer, etc.) or you will work with a tax preparer who will use their own version of the software to send your info to the IRS.