Can I File My Taxes Online Without a PIN from the Previous Year?

Written by James Hirby | Fact checked by The Law Dictionary staff |  

These days, most taxpayers file their taxes online. There are dozens of relatively inexpensive online tax services that cater to wage-earners who hold part-time or full-time jobs and have relatively few assets. The free or discounted versions of these services are typically not suited to prosperous taxpayers with multiple streams of investment income or business owners whose personal tax liabilities may be difficult to separate from those of a larger partnership or corporation. However, many of these services do offer "professional" or "business" packages designed to replicate the services that a professional tax specialist provides.

If you have a relatively simple tax situation, it's likely that you'll be able to file your federal and state taxes online for less than $50. Depending upon your income, you may even be able to file your taxes for free. In any event, you'll need to sign up for an online tax-filing service like TurboTax or H&R Block. For obvious reasons, online tax-filing services are highly secure. Although the service that you use will permit you to create a user name and password that allows you to save your unfinished tax return before exiting the interface, you won't be able to file your taxes without providing a five-digit PIN.

When you e-file your taxes for the first time, you'll create one of these PINs. After your return is complete, this number will remain on file with the IRS. In theory, you'll write down the number and use it for each subsequent tax return that you file online. Since the IRS has the number on file, you'll use it again even if you switch tax preparation programs.

If you lose your PIN this year, you'll still be able to e-file your taxes. In lieu of a PIN, most tax filing programs will demand your most recent "adjusted gross income" figure. Known as your "AGI," this number can be found on your tax return from last year. If you filed your taxes online last year, you can simply log in to your old file and retrieve your AGI. If this is your first foray into the world of e-filing, try to locate a physical copy of your tax return from last year.

The IRS operates a hotline for taxpayers who lose their PINs and AGI figures from previous years. Since it may take significant amounts of time to get through during the tax season, calling this hotline should be your last resort.

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