Filing taxes last-minute? This will make it easier

Here are nine reasons to consider making an online account with the IRS

Tanza Loudenback

By 

Tanza Loudenback, CFP®

Tanza Loudenback, CFP®

Contributing Reporter & Certified Financial Planner™

Tanza Loudenback, CFP® is a contributing reporter and Certified Financial Planner™ at Policygenius, where she covers personal finance and insurance news. Previously, she was a senior reporter and correspondent at Business Insider.

Published April 14, 2022 | 4 min read

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It’s been two years since Americans had to file federal taxes in April. But we’re back this year with an April 18 deadline. With less than a week to go, here’s a tip to save time preparing your tax return and paying your bill: Create an online account on the IRS website. 

While you can’t actually file taxes from your account, you can pay a balance, set up a payment plan, and get a deadline extension. What’s more, you get access to your personal tax archive, including information about your stimulus checks, advance Child Tax Credit payments, and more that will eliminate the need to dig through desk drawers (or the trash) for paper records.

“With the shortage of staff at the IRS, it can feel almost impossible to get through to a live person to get needed information,” says Lisa Niser, a tax and financial advisor. “Having an online account can save you a lot of time and reduce potential headaches.”

Not quite convinced you need an account? Here are nine reasons to consider making one, and exactly how to do it.

Reasons to make an IRS account

1. See your 2020 adjusted gross income

When you e-file a tax return, the IRS asks for your adjusted gross income as a form of identity verification. Instead of digging up last year’s return, you can find that number in your online account. 

Pro tip: If your 2020 tax return still hasn’t been processed by the IRS, enter $0 for your prior-year AGI. If you used the non-filers tool to sign up for advance Child Tax Credit payments or a third stimulus check, enter $1.  

2. See your advance child tax credit amount

Your online account shows how much you received in advance child tax credit payments in 2021 and the number of qualifying children that were factored into the payment calculation. 

Each spouse in a married couple who files jointly will see their portion of the payment in their own account. When filling out your joint tax return, combine the individual payments.

3. See your stimulus check amount

If you got one, two, or all three Economic Impact Payments during the pandemic, you should have received a paper notice in the mail showing the exact amount. No idea where those letters ended up? Your IRS account shows the exact amount you received alongside instructions for reporting the amounts on your tax return. 

4. See your current balance

Your account shows whether you have a tax balance for the current year and the prior three years. If you fail to file a return this year, the IRS may file one for you and calculate what you owe, if anything. That amount will show up in your online account and you’ll get a notice in the mail, too.

5. Make a payment

Online tax software providers such as TurboTax and H&R Block give filers the option to pay their taxes when they file a return. If you’re not ready to pay when you file or you’d rather make the payment on your own, you can do that within your online account via bank transfer, credit card, or debit card. 

You can also pay back taxes, make estimated quarterly payments, or send a payment for a recently filed amended return. Each time you make a payment, you’ll get an email confirmation.

6. Apply for a payment plan

The IRS offers short- and long-term payment plans if you can’t afford to cover your full balance. You can explore the options and choose the best one for you directly through your online account.

7. File for an extension

Filing for a tax extension moves your deadline to Oct. 17, 2022. The catch is that if you owe money, you still need to pay by April 18 or you’ll face interest and penalties. Within your online account, you can quickly make a payment toward your balance and get an extension to file at the same time. Note: You have to make a payment to initiate an extension using your online account.

8. Access transcripts

 You’ll find a large archive of tax transcripts available for download in your online account, at no cost. These are theofficial record of information the IRS has collected for you and from you in at least the past four years. That includes everything reported on your tax returns and past W-2s and 1099s from employers and other companies that paid you, as well as your own payment activity. 

You may not need these transcripts to file your current return, but you will need them if you apply for a business loan or mortgage, financial aid, FEMA or disaster relief, or housing assistance, among other things.

9. See some notices and letters

Some, but not all, notices and letters the IRS sends you appear in your online account. Notices and letters are sent for a number of reasons, including when a balance is due, the IRS needs to verify your identity or ask questions about a return, there are delays in processing your return, or there were adjustments made to your refund. 

This section of your account can be especially helpful if you recently changed addresses and are waiting on forwarded mail or you misplaced a piece of mail from the IRS.

How to make an account

The IRS uses ID.me, a private identity verification platform, to set up online accounts for taxpayers. Extensive security measures mean the process is a little more involved than, say, signing up for a social media account. 

From start to finish, the process can take as little as 15 minutes. Here’s what to expect.

  1. Have a form of identification on hand, such as a passport, driver’s license, or state ID card. 

  2. Follow this link to create a new account using ID.me. Here’s an accessibility guide for those who use screen readers, voice command, or screen magnifiers.  

  3. Enter your email address and create a password.

  4. Accept the terms and conditions.

  5. Receive a confirmation email in your inbox. Follow the link back to ID.me in your browser.

  6. Select one of five multi-factor authentication options. The page will describe how each one works.

  7. Select one of two options for verifying your identity:

    • Self-service: Requires government ID and a selfie. Note that this option uses facial recognition software, which the IRS says is automatically deleted within 24 hours. If that makes you uncomfortable, the next option might be better.

    • Video chat: Requires two identification documents and recording a 5 to 10 minute video chat with an agent. Wait times vary. Videos are deleted after 30 days.

  8. Upload digital copies or photos of your chosen identification documents. 

  9. Complete your selfie or video chat. 

  10. Enter your Social Security number. 

  11. Review and confirm that your information is accurate.

  12. Receive a confirmation text message.

  13. Select “allow and continue” to confirm your identity with the IRS.

If you’re having trouble with this process, visit ID.me’s help page. Happy tax prep!

Image: The Good Brigade / Getty Images