The IRS expects that 75 percent of all 2012 returns will be entitled to a refund, so if you haven't started preparing your taxes yet, do it: There's no reason to wait for April 15 to roll around to get that money back from Uncle Sam. And remember: If you do not file your return by the due date, you may have to pay penalties and interest. Even if you can't meet the deadline, you can file for an extension, which will give you until October 15 to file your 2012 tax returns.
Here are some updates before you start to prepare:
• New for tax year 2012, the IRS is providing taxpayers whose incomes are $57,000 or less with "Free File", available through IRS.gov, where a number of tax software companies make their products available for free. Additionally, some states are offering similar options. Electronic e-filing is available to all taxpayers, regardless of income.
• Mailing your return: If you are filing a paper return, you may be mailing it to a different address this year because the IRS has changed the filing location for several areas. See Where To File for a list of IRS addresses.
• Exemption amount: $3,800 from $3,700 in 2011
• Standard deduction: For married couples filing a joint return, the standard deduction is $11,900 for 2012. For single individuals and married couples filing separate returns, it is $5,950 and for heads of household it increases by $200 to $8,700 for 2012.
• Tax-bracket thresholds increase for each filing status. For a married couple filing a joint return, for example, the taxable-income threshold separating the 15-percent bracket from the 25-percent bracket is $70,700, up from $69,000 in 2011.
• Estate and gift tax: The exclusion amount for 2012 is $5,120,000. The exclusion for gifts to a spouse who is not a citizen of the United States increases to $139,000 for 2012.