It's Tax Season: Here's What You Need to Know

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Note: All tax deadlines contained in this article are set forth by the IRS. In the event of any changes to the IRS tax filing deadlines, we’ll update the below information as soon as possible. 

Whether you’re a first-time tax filer or an old hand, tax season can feel overwhelming when you’re getting hit with forms, due dates and tax jargon left and right. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to help make the tax preparation process a little less intimidating and confusing, especially if you’re taking the DIY route on your personal return this year. If you’re getting an assist from a tax professional, you should be in good hands, as the pros know the drill well.

So what’s in this guide?

Scintillating topics like the federal income tax brackets, tax deductions versus credits, audits and more. Don’t worry, we explain everything in plain English to help you get a better understanding of your taxes.

Let’s dive in!

When is tax season? Important tax dates to know in 2024

Tax season can be a stressful time.

Below are some key federal tax dates to keep in mind for 2024. We put these deadlines up top so that you can plan accordingly and avoid any surprises. Starting your taxes early can save you from the stress of having to scramble at the last minute and the risk of having to pay penalties for missing deadlines.

January 16, 2024: 

4th quarter of 2023 estimated tax payment due

Estimated tax payments for the 2024 tax year are typically due quarterly – see "When to Pay Estimated Tax" on or Form 1040-ES for deadlines. 

Note: Generally, estimated tax payments are required for individuals who do not pay income taxes for the year through withholding — for example, those who are self-employed or earn income that isn’t from an employer (e.g., investments, alimony, etc.). Consult the IRS for more details on who has to pay estimated taxes.

April 15, 2024:

Tax Day

  • 2023 individual tax returns due 
  • 2023 individual tax return extension forms due
  • 2023 individual taxes due
  • First quarter installment of 2024 estimated tax payment due
  • *Note: This is also the last day you can make 2023 IRA contributions

June 17, 2024:

Second quarter installment of 2024 estimated tax payment due.

September 16, 2024:

Third quarter installment of 2024 estimated tax payment due.

October 15, 2024:

2023 individual tax returns are due for those who filed an extension

For more due dates for other specific forms, payments and requirements, see IRS Publication 509 (Tax Calendars)

Keep in mind that tax deadlines are always subject to change, and the IRS is the official source for the most up-to-date information.

A refresher on tax basics: federal income tax brackets, deductions and credits

During tax season, you’ll likely hear terms like “tax brackets,” “deductions” and “credits.” And it’s because all three affect your tax liability – in other words, the amount of taxes you owe to the federal government in a given tax year.

Federal income tax brackets

At some point in your life, you might be asked which tax bracket you’re in. Your tax bracket, also known as your “marginal tax rate,” is based on your income and filing status (e.g., single, married filing jointly, etc.). It helps to determine the amount of taxes you owe each year.

There are seven federal tax brackets, or rates, 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35%, 37%. The amount of your tax bill is calculated, in part, by applying these rates to your annual taxable income.

US federal tax rates are progressive. That means the higher your taxable income, the higher your tax rates will be.

To figure out which bracket you’re in, consult the IRS federal income tax table.

For example, a single filer with a taxable income of $32,000 in 2023 is in the 12% bracket.

But just because a taxpayer falls into the 12% bracket doesn’t mean that their entire taxable income is taxed at 12%. This is a common misunderstanding. Many people don’t realize that different portions of your taxable income are taxed at different rates based on the federal tax bracket table.

So sticking with the example of a single filer with $32,000 in taxable income. For the 2023 tax year, the first $11,000 of that taxable income would be taxed at 10%. The remaining $21,000 ($32,000 - $11,000) would be taxed at 12%.


Many people don’t realize that different portions of your taxable income are taxed at different rates based on the federal tax bracket table.


Good to know: The IRS typically adjusts the federal tax brackets each year for inflation. See our 2023-2024 Federal Tax Brackets comparison table.

Deductions vs. credits

Now that you understand how taxable income can affect your tax rates, you might be wondering if there are ways to lower your taxable income and your overall tax bill.

This is where tax deductions and credits come into play. Since they could both help reduce the amount of taxes you pay, it can be easy to mix up the two. But a deduction and credit work differently to lower your tax bill.

A tax deduction could lower your overall tax bill by reducing your taxable income. You may already be familiar with the standard deduction. That’s because when you’re doing your personal taxes, you need to decide between taking the standard deduction or itemizing your deductions.

Other common deductions include the charitable contribution deduction, IRA contribution deduction, and mortgage interest deduction.

A tax credit, on the other hand, directly lowers your tax bill, dollar-for-dollar. So if you’re eligible to claim a $500 credit on your tax return and you owe $1,500 in taxes, that credit could reduce your tax bill to $1,000 ($1,500 - $500).

Bear in mind that the full list of available deductions and credits is long. And their amounts vary across the board. It’s unlikely that you’re going to be eligible for every deduction and credit that’s out there – they typically come with specific qualification rules.

In short, it’s a good idea to confirm eligibility details with the IRS or a tax professional.

Preparing your federal tax return

With some of the most important tax terms and concepts nailed down, let's talk about the basics of preparing a federal tax return.

If your taxes are complex, you may want to budget a little extra time to get your forms and documents together. And for reference, you may also want to bookmark this IRS tax information webpage for individuals filing a return.

Regardless of your situation, tax preparation generally involves four key steps:

  1. Gather your tax documents and financial statements
  2. Complete your tax forms
  3. Assemble and file your tax return
  4. Receive your refund (if you’re eligible)

Getting a tax refund?

If you're getting a tax refund this year, consider putting that money to work. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Maximize your contribution to your 401(k) or IRA
  2. Open a CD account and put a CD strategy in play
  3. Open a high-yield savings account
  4. Invest your refund
  5. Pay down your debt

Getting a refund this tax season? Make your money go further when you open a Marcus Online Savings Account.

Where’s my tax refund?

The IRS usually issues refunds in less than 21 days. But remember: The refund process could take longer for a number of reasons – for instance, if the return was incomplete or contained significant errors.

If you’re looking for a status update though, you can use the IRS refund tracker. To use the tool, you need your Social Security number (or individual taxpayer identification number), filing status and exact refund amount.

Keeping tax records

While you’re waiting for your refund, it’s a good time to reorganize the tax documents and forms you’ve used for the tax season.

No matter what kind of filing or organization method you use, the goal is to be able to find the documents you need quickly and easily. This is in case you ever need to:

  • Respond to IRS questions or audit
  • Amend a tax return
  • Prepare for next year’s return
  • Provide tax information for certain applications (e.g., home loan, financial aid, etc.)

Another important thing to keep in mind is to store your records in a safe and secure place.

Learn more: Done with Taxes? What to Keep for Your Records

Amending a federal tax return

As you’re putting your tax documents away, you might realize you made a mistake on your return. Don’t panic.

Generally speaking, if you need to go back and claim a credit or refund, you have up to three years from the original filing date to make any necessary corrections by submitting an amended tax return. US tax laws are complicated, so mistakes can totally happen (and they do!). So don’t beat yourself over it.

First, use the IRS Interactive Tax Assistant tool to see if you even need to file an amendment. That’s because if it’s a simple math error, you probably won’t need to file an amended return. The IRS usually corrects minor mathematical and clerical errors for you.

That said, here are some common reasons why you may need to file an amended return: Changes or corrections to your filing status , income, credits, deductions or number of dependents. If you do need to file an amended return, fill out and submit IRS Form 1040X.

IRS audits

The thought of an IRS audit can be nerve-racking. Take a deep breath. Here are some key things to know about audits.

  • IRS audits are not as scary as you might think. They’re the IRS's way of double checking your returns.
  • Not every audit requires sitting across the table with someone from the IRS – some audits are conducted by mail.
  • You can challenge IRS audit findings.

Parting thoughts

Hopefully at this point, tax talk no longer sounds like a foreign language. Our goal is to equip you with some basic tax knowledge, so that you can get your bearings and start the tax season with confidence.

Bear in mind that taxes are complicated, and tax laws are always subject to change. Your best source of information on the latest tax rules is the IRS or a certified tax professional.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for individualized professional tax advice. Individuals should consult their own tax advisor for matters specific to their own taxes. This article was prepared by and approved by Marcus by Goldman Sachs, but does not reflect the institutional opinions of The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., Goldman Sachs Bank USA, Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC or any of their affiliates, subsidiaries or divisions. Goldman Sachs Bank USA and Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC are not providing any financial, economic, legal, accounting, tax or other recommendations in this article. Information and opinions expressed in this article are as of the date of this material only and subject to change without notice. Information contained in this article does not constitute the provision of investment advice by Goldman Sachs Bank USA, Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC or any of their affiliates. Neither Goldman Sachs Bank USA, Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC nor any of their affiliates makes any representations or warranties, express or implied, as to the accuracy or completeness of the statements of any information contained in this document and any liability therefore is expressly disclaimed.