Don’t Pay to Pay Your Taxes: Use One of These 8 Free Filing Sites Instead
April 18 looms on my calendar. No matter how organized I am or how early I prepare, tax day always gets my stomach’s butterflies fluttering.
But the days of sitting in an uncomfortable, overheated office to wait for a pro to pluck away at your tax return are over.
Thanks to the power of technology, electronic tax return filing is as routine as checking your sports scores or your bank account online. With a few clicks, you can get the agony of filing your annual tax return over and done with -- and get on with life.
Wondering where to start? Overwhelmed by promises shouted on TV commercials?
Don’t dive in -- or pay up -- until you read these options for filing your taxes for free.
If you live in a state that collects income tax, you may have to pay a nominal fee to file through the services below. If you don’t have to file a state tax return, chances are good you can spend precisely zero dollars to e-file.
Take a look below to see which free (or nearly free) filing option is best for you.
1. The IRS
The IRS offers two versions of its FreeFile program.
If you made less than $64,000 in 2016, you can file your federal return for free through online software.
Some state returns are available for free through these companies, so check for your state before choosing one to use to file your federal return.
If you made more than $64,000, you can e-file your taxes for free directly through the IRS. While the tool provides basic calculations, it doesn’t hold your hand through the process like the IRS’s partnerships at the lower income level.
Also, state tax prep isn’t available at this level.
2. United Way MyFreeTaxes
If you made less than $64,000 per year, take advantage of the United Way’s MyFreeTaxes program to file state and federal taxes online for free.
The site notes that 70% of Americans qualify for this free filing service, powered by H&R Block.
3. TurboTax Federal Free Edition
If your tax return is simple -- maybe just one or two W-2s -- filing with TurboTax online could be your best option.
In previous years, I’ve filed my federal taxes through TurboTax for free, then ponied up $30 or so to prepare my state returns. This year, federal and state tax preparation is free via TurboTax’s 1040EZ/A Absolute Zero guarantee.
If you make less than $100,000, don’t own a home or business and didn’t deal with investments or major medical expenses, this is a great option for you.
But watch out -- you won’t be able to prepare and file for free if you need to report any 1099 earnings.
4. H&R Block Free Edition
H&R Block offers a free option for those filing simple returns.
Its online Free Edition allows you to e-file federal returns for free, and a state return option is now included with the package.
If you’re expecting a hefty refund, you can get an additional bonus from H&R Block.
When you e-file, choose to receive $100 increments of your refund in gift cards from your favorite retailers (think Amazon, Target and Nordstrom). H&R Block will kick in an extra 5% toward the gift card amount.
If a 1040EZ is all you need to file, TaxSlayer will help you do it online for free.
The Free Basic Edition offers a deduction finder, and you can add your state return at no charge.
Active-duty military members save 50% on any preparation and filing package through TaxSlayer offers, including state returns.
If you simply need to file a 1040EZ/A, federal and state returns are free with TaxAct.
If you get a refund, you can choose to receive it on American Express Serve -- a prepaid debit card that doesn’t require a credit check or minimum balance.
7. Liberty Tax Service
Wondering if Liberty Tax Service offers a free filing option? It does, but you wouldn’t guess it looking at DIYTax -- no Statue of Liberty logos here.
DIYTax promises free, easy e-filing for 1040EZ/A and state returns.
Here’s another offering backed by Liberty Tax: ESmart Tax offers free e-filing of 1040EZ and state forms.
EFile.com offers free basic federal filing and advises this option if you’re single with no children and no mortgage.
If you need to file a state return and expect a refund, choose to have the fee for your state filing deducted from your refund. You can get 50% off if you file with your state when you enter the promo code e50State.
If things get complicated, EFile promises to charge for only the least expensive service you need. There’s no pressure to get a deluxe package if you won’t use all the perks.
Bonus: Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA)
Want to talk it out? Sit down with an IRS volunteer.
If you make $54,000 or less, have a disability, are elderly or speak limited English, it’s free to use the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program.
Electronic filing also is available in some locations.
Search the IRS database of VITA centers -- a lot of them are at local libraries -- to see if you need an appointment.
The IRS also offers Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) at some locations. It’s free if you’re over 60, and volunteers are well versed in financial concerns for retired individuals.
All volunteers are certified by the IRS, and many have professional backgrounds in accounting and finances.
Your Turn: What’s your favorite way to file your annual income tax returns for free?
Lisa Rowan is a writer and producer at The Penny Hoarder. She stocks up on antacids during tax season.