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Tax Day moves to April 18, IRS ditches paper tax forms

No, April 18th isn't a typo. That's the date income tax returns are due this year.

The infamous April 15 due date was pushed back because the District of Columbia celebrates President Lincoln's 1862 order emancipating slaves in the district on Friday, April 15th. (The DC holiday actually falls on Saturday, April 16th, but workers get the Friday off).

This year also marks a major development on the tax return front: The IRS isn't sending paper tax forms and instructions to millions of taxpayers.

Instead, it's pushing both preparers and individuals to e-file their returns online, although people who want or need to file on paper may print forms from the IRS's website (www.irs.gov) or pick them up at a local office.

Last year, 70% of individual returns -- nearly 100 million -- were e-filed.

For those earning less than $58,000, the IRS offers a special "Free File" program. The software was provided by a consortium of 20 tax preparers, including H&R Block and TurboTax, and offers a simple question-and-answer format to guide users. The IRS also offers free "fillable forms" that do simple math for use by any taxpayer.

Like the experience of leasing residential telephones from AT&T and erasing typos on an IBM Selectric, future generations won't know about the tax rite of passage of lining up at the post office right before midnight to get the return mailed off on time. Yes, there is progress.

These two articles--one in the Wall Street Journal and the other in Marketwatch--review the deductions and credits to pay attention to for a tax year with a number of special tax breaks. Among the highlighted items are the first-time homebuyer tax credit, the self-employed health-insurance deduction, the adoption credit, and charitable contributions through your IRA.

About the author

Chris Farrell is the economics editor of Marketplace Money.

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