WASHINGTON – The Internal Revenue Service and its private-sector partners Friday announced the 2017 opening of Free File, the free tax software preparation program that gives eligible taxpayers a dozen options for brand-name products, according to an IRS press release.

Taxpayers can begin preparing their returns now and the companies will hold the returns until Jan. 23 when the filing season officially begins. By law, the IRS must hold refunds claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit or the Additional Child Tax Credit until Feb. 15.

Anyone whose adjusted gross income in 2016 was $64,000 or less will be eligible for Free File software. People who earned more than $64,000 may use Free File Fillable Forms, the electronic version of IRS paper forms, which will be available Jan. 23.

“You don’t have to be an expert on taxes. Free File software can help walk you through the steps and help you get it right,” said John A. Koskinen, IRS Commissioner. “For 14 years, this partnership between the IRS and the Free File Alliance has helped taxpayers prepare and file their federal taxes for free. The real winners in this partnership have been the nation’s taxpayers.”

Tim Hugo is executive director of the Free File Alliance.

“We are proud to once again offer the industry’s most innovative and secure tax software at no cost to 70 percent of American taxpayers. Tax time can be stressful, but Free File makes step-by-step help accessible to everyone making $64,000 or less,” Hugo said. “Free File is the one place where taxpayers can choose from a variety of industry-leading tax software options in order to prepare and e-file their federal tax returns at absolutely no cost.”

Free File is available exclusively at IRS.gov/FreeFile. Since 2003, more than 49 million people have used Free File, saving more than $1.4 billion based on a conservative $30-fee estimate.