IRS Direct File to be fully available March 12

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The tool is a new way for eligible taxpayers to file directly with the IRS online for free.

The IRS is planning to fully open up its Direct File pilot to eligible taxpayers on March 12.

The pilot program is available for taxpayers in 12 states with relatively simple tax situations to file online directly with the IRS for free. 

The IRS, which built the tool with the help of government tech teams 18F and the U.S. Digital Service, first opened Direct File to the public on Feb. 22. But the tool has only been open to new taxpayers for short, unannounced windows of time. The IRS says that such a phased rollout is part of the agency’s commitment to software best practices.

Starting next week, the IRS says the tool will be mostly available 24/7 with the aim that any taxpayer who is eligible and interested can use it. 

But there will still be some limitations until March 12. The IRS says that the tool could “briefly close” to new taxpayers if a certain daily limit of spaces is reached, although the agency also said that more and more spaces will be added over time. 

Regardless of any space limitations, taxpayers that have already started their return will be able to continue even if the platform is closed to new taxpayers, according to the IRS. 

Taxpayers that do opt in will find a service available in English and Spanish that takes them through tax filing step-by-step. The IRS also says that it's providing real-time, online customer support and that the tool is mobile-accessible. 

How the tool works and is received will likely play some part in the decision of whether or not it will be offered in the future, as the current program is only a pilot. The IRS announced its plans to test the system after releasing a Congressionally-mandated report on the feasibility of such a tool last May.

“Direct File is an important innovation in our ongoing efforts to transform the IRS and lead the agency into a digital, more taxpayer-focused future,” IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel told reporters in January.