taxes

The Internal Revenue Service officially opened tax season on Friday. (Geraldine Wilkins / Los Angeles Times / April 16, 2001)

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Tax season, that time of year that spurs Americans to gnash their teeth and root out reams of old documents, officially kicked off Friday.

The Internal Revenue Service started accepting and processing paper and online returns, as well as preparing refunds. Individuals have until April 15 to file their tax returns.

The tax agency is actually getting a late start this year after the government shutdown delayed the opening of tax season by 10 days to Jan. 31.

More than 148 million individual tax returns will be filed this year, the IRS estimated. About three out of four filers will get refunds, with the average refund last year clocking in at $2,755.

The IRS is encouraging people to file electronically instead of mailing in paper forms. More than four our of five returns are now filed electronically, and those who are due refunds that file electronically and choose direct deposit will get their refunds more quickly, the agency said.

Many taxpayers will choose to file for free using the IRS FreeFile system, while others will turn to accountants or tax preparation software such as TurboTax.

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