By Nancy Mathis, Internal Revenue Service
Looking for a simple way to do your taxes? Trying to save time and money? The answer is Free File, and it’s available only at www.irs.gov/freefile.
There is a Free File option for everyone. Free File offers brand-name tax software to people who earned $57,000 or less last year, which is 70 percent of us. For people who earned more, there are free online fillable forms.
This program is a part of a public-private partnership between the Internal Revenue Service and 15 leading tax software companies that have agreed to make their products available to the public for free.
Here’s how to get started:Step 1: Gather your tax materials
Here’s some of what you will need:
- A copy of last year’s tax return
- Valid social security numbers for yourself, your spouse and children
- All income statements such as your Form W-2
- Interest/dividend statements, such as the 1099 forms
- Documents for any tax deductions or credits
Do your taxes with either Free File software or online fillable forms. Because there are 15 participating companies, each offering slightly different rules for qualifying, it’s easiest to select “Help Me Choose A Company.” This tool will help you select a software option right for you.Step 3: Prepare and e-file your return
You can prepare, print and e-file your federal return all for free. Some companies also offer state tax returns for free or for a fee. Using electronic filing and direct deposit remain the fastest way to get your federal refund. The IRS also has upgraded “Where’s My Refund?” so you can start tracking your refund after 24 hours.
Free File is available at www.irs.gov/freefile around the clock, giving you the freedom to choose when and how you do your taxes.
Super Bowl Sunday is a great American tradition, and a great way to bring together the three Fs: football, friends, and food. Super Bowl Sunday is also the second biggest day to consume food in the United States, only after Thanksgiving.
One of the most popular ways to celebrate is by inviting family and friends to enjoy a buffet. But if cold foods are left out of refrigeration and hot foods sit cooling for too long, you may be leaving the door open for some other, unwanted, guests – bacteria that can cause food poisoning.
Certain foods left at room temperature for more than two hours enter the so called “Danger Zone,” between 40°F and 140°F. The “Danger Zone” is the perfect environment for harmful bacteria to grow and multiply. Because the game itself takes about four hours and Super Bowl parties can last for several hours longer it’s important to pay special attention to this on game day.
A lot of food combined with a lot of people who are focused on the big game creates a significant risk of food poisoning – so there’s no better time to pullout the food safety playbook and Check Your Steps.Always wash your hands before and after handling food.
Your jersey may have grass stains from the impromptu game in the backyard, but be sure to keep your kitchen, dishes and utensils clean by washing them with hot, soapy water.Keep raw meat and poultry apart from cooked foods.
Avoid an offsides penalty. Always serve food on clean plates — not any that previously held raw meat and poultry. Bacteria which may have been present in raw meat juices can cross- contaminate the cooked food to be served.Cook foods thoroughly to safe minimum internal temperatures.
Use a food thermometer to make sure that meat and poultry are safely cooked.
Divide cooked foods into shallow containers to store in the refrigerator or freezer until serving. This encourages rapid, even cooling. Reheat hot foods to 165 °F after halftime.
Arrange and serve food on several small platters rather than on one large platter. Keep the rest of the food hot in the oven (set at 200-250 °F) or cold in the refrigerator until serving time. This way, foods will be held at a safe temperature for a longer period of time.
Replace empty platters rather than adding fresh food to a dish that already had food in it. Many people’s hands may have been taking food from the dish, which has also been sitting out at room temperature.Keep cold foods at 40 °F or colder.
Keep foods cold by nesting dishes in bowls of ice. Otherwise, use small serving trays and replace them.
Remember to refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours.
For more information, view our Parties and Large Groups general information page.
If you have other food safety questions, please feel free to contact us via our Hotline (1-888-674-6854 toll-free) or online at AskKaren.gov (English or Spanish). Please continue the discussion on our Facebook page.
Enjoy the game!
Have questions about student aid? The U.S. Dept. of Education will answer them. Just ask them on Twitter with the hashtag #AskFAFSA between 5 and 6pm EST tonight.
If you earned less than $45,060 (or $50,270 if you’re married and filing jointly) last year, you may qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The maximum credit for tax year 2012 is $5,891.
Even if you don’t owe any tax or are not required to file, you must file a tax return in order to claim the credit.
Find out if you qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit.
January is recognized annually as National Mentoring Month, and it’s a chance for you to get involved in helping children in your community.
Mentoring usually consists of pairing a young person with a caring adult, helping create a successful path of growth and development for the child. Mentoring can lead youth to be more engaged in school, finish high school, go onto college, and form more positive social attitudes and relationships.
While mentors are not a replacement for parents, guardians or teachers, they play a supplemental role of inspiring and engaging youth.
If you’re interested in mentoring a child, there are free resources available to help get you started. You can use a “Mentoring Tool Kit” to learn more about what mentoring entails. You can also find National Mentoring Month resources including bookmarks, posters, thank you mentor note cards and more at Serve.gov.
Learn more about National Mentoring Month and how you can get involved.
Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States and is estimated to be responsible for more than 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year.
You can’t see, smell, or taste radon—it’s a radioactive gas that comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water and gets into the air you breathe. Radon can be present outdoors and in any type of building, but you’re likely to get the most exposure to radon in your own home.
Internet dating and romance scams, commonly called “sweetheart scams,” target people with online dating profiles or through social media networks, and are becoming more common. The Internet makes it easy for people to create fake identities, using other people’s pictures to pretend they are attractive and interested in you.
After a bond has been formed, the scammer will typically ask to borrow money, either for a travel expense to come visit, or because of an “emergency” to one of their family members or even to themselves.
The State Department offers these tips on how to recognize sweetheart scams:
- The scammer and the victim meet online – often through Internet dating or employment sites.
- The scammer asks for money to get out of a bad situation or to provide a service.
- Photographs that the scammer sends of “him/herself” show a very attractive person. The photo appears to have been taken at a professional modeling agency or photographic studio.
- The scammer has incredibly bad luck— often getting into car crashes, arrested, mugged, beaten, or hospitalized — usually all within the course of a couple of months. They often claim that their key family members (parents and siblings) are dead. Sometimes, the scammer claims to have an accompanying child overseas who is very sick or has been in an accident.
- The scammer claims to be a native-born American citizen, but uses poor grammar indicative of a non-native English speaker. Sometimes the scammer will use eloquent romantic language that is plagiarized from the Internet.