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A new IRS program is helping its first users file their income taxes electronically.


Texan Dixie Warden is quick to say she’s “not a numbers girl.” But as the first user of the government’s new free electronic tax return filing system, Warden reports she completed her taxes this year in about an hour using the program.

“I don’t want to call myself a dummy, but this is taxes for dummies right here,” Warden said. The program asked her simple questions about her tax status, provided definitions for tax lingo such as adjusted gross income and a chatbot was on hand to answer her questions.

The project, known as Direct File and launched by the IRS on a limited basis in 12 states this tax season, is in its pilot phase. Starting this week, it is available for eligible users to start their returns at any time after earlier being available only during certain hours.

If it is successful and scaled up for the general public’s use, the program could drastically change how Americans file their taxes and how much money they spend completing them. That is, if the agency can see the program through its development in spite of threats to its funding.

Warden, a 37-year-old IRS employee from Kyle, Texas, says she saved nearly $400 this tax season by filing her tax return directly to the government from her home laptop instead of paying one of the commercial tax prep services used by millions of people. Individual taxpayers pay an average of $140 preparing their tax returns each year.

Warden has worked for the IRS in a variety of roles for the past 16 years, but she is not a tax expert. She’s currently a human relations specialist.

“The way that it was laid out was just so darn easy to understand and I just see it being helpful for so many millions of people,” she said.

While Warden’s praise of the program might seem natural given her employer, a broader test is under way now as people around the country give it a try.


The IRS began its pilot program in fits and starts in 12 states, around timed windows, for people who have very simple W-2s, an employee’s wage and tax statement.

The agency estimates that hundreds of thousands of mostly lower-income taxpayers will participate in the program during the 2024 filing season.

The slow introduction is in part meant to avoid a repeat of the disastrous rollout of the Obama administration’s health insurance program under the Affordable Care Act in 2013, which was rife with website crashes and glitches.

The IRS initially invited government workers to use the program and Warden was the very first. Now members of the public are starting to participate.

Derek Wheeler, director of the Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic at the University of Florida’s Law School, said his clinic has referred less than a dozen clients to the Direct File system. Florida is one of the 12 states participating in the pilot. So are New Hampshire, Nevada, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, Wyoming, Arizona, Massachusetts, California and New York.

“The benefit of a program like this, that is simple for users, is immense,” Wheeler told The Associated Press.

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