Still Need to File Your Taxes? Here’s How to Do It for Free With Your Phone

File taxes for free
H&R Block's "More Zero" app and online filing platform allows you to file your taxes by taking a photo of your W-2 and answering a few questions. Photo by Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder
Some of the links in this post are from our sponsors. We provide you with accurate, reliable information. Learn more about how we make money and select our advertising partners.

Sponsorship Disclosure: A huge thanks to H&R Block for working with us to bring you this content. It’s rare that we have the opportunity to share something so awesome and get paid for it!

I’m new to this whole tax thing, and I have to say it’s one of the more daunting adult tasks I’ve had to conquer this year.

But I have a confession: I’ve spent the majority of my time this tax season just staring at the W-2s on my desk. Then, I shove them to the side and continue to procrastinate.

I guess I didn’t realize how easy filing taxes is, nowadays. I can actually file taxes through an app… in about 20 minutes… for free.

Why has my dad been complaining about taxes all these years?

How Taking a Picture Can Help You File Your Taxes

Yes, I’ve heard of H&R Block, but I didn’t know how affordable and easy the company makes tax filing.

With April 18 approaching all too quickly, I finally forced myself to sit down and read up on the service. For those of us that file in April, you can still prepare and files federal and state taxes for free with H&R Block Free Edition.

That’s me, apparently!

Still slightly reluctant, I poured myself a giant cup of coffee and settled in for the afternoon. Little did I know, this would be over in about 20 minutes.

Here’s how it works:

1. Download the H&R Block app.

Be sure you’re downloading the “H&R Block Tax Prep and File 2016 returns” app. Click “GET,” and it’ll start the download.

2. Open the app, and create an account.

Or sign in if you already have one. Creating an account makes it easy because you can switch over to your computer at any point without losing all your information.

3. Select “Take a Pic” or “Upload your W-2.”

I already had my W-2 printed out. I got it in an email and it felt like the right thing to do.

If yours is printed, go ahead and select “Take a Pic.” It’ll walk you through instructions and tips, such as placing your W-2 on a flat surface with plenty of light and ensuring all four edges are in the photo.

Once you feel ready, allow the app to access your camera, and snap a photo.

It’s exactly like uploading a check to your bank account. It’ll tell you to move closer or hold your phone steady. Then it automatically snaps the picture when it’s ready.

After that, you’ll fill in any other information it asks for. But don’t panic; you’ll likely find most of it on your W-2.

If you don’t want to snap a photo, you can upload your W-2 as a PDF. Many employers now email W-2s, so this makes it simple.

4. Answer a few quick questions.

The app then asked me to choose “all that applied in 2016.” Be aware, if any of these apply, you may not qualify for the free version.

These options included:

  • Owned a home
  • Had children
  • Had investments
  • Owned rental properties
  • Self employed
  • Owned a business

Admittedly, I’m young and my taxes are super straightforward. I didn’t select any of the above, which qualified me for H&R Block Free Edition.

If you don’t qualify for H&R Block Free Edition, the app tells you at this point if you’ll have to pay for an upgrade.

The Deluxe edition is the next step up (starting at $54.99), and that’s best for homeowners. The Premium option (starting at $79.99) is best for investors or small business owners.

It all depends on your situation. 

5. Answer a few more questions.

I continue to answer questions.

My name is Carson, I’m single, here’s my birthday as well as my social security number.

Throughout the questions, a link at the bottom will let me click for an explanation in case I have any questions.

For example, one asks if I’m legally blind or disabled; I click “How do I know if I qualify?” for more information.

6. Review all your information.

Confirm everything you’ve entered is correct.

7. File that sucker!

In total, the process didn’t take me more than about 20 minutes.

Yes, my taxes are pretty straightforward, but even if yours aren’t, filing them with H&R Block is easy — and pretty affordable.

Want to see if you qualify for the H&R Block Free Edition? Start the process here.

And if you’re confused about anything, we’ve gotcha covered with our ultimate tax guide.

Your Turn: What’s your preferred method of filing?

Sponsorship Disclosure: A huge thanks to H&R Block for working with us to bring you this content. It’s rare that we have the opportunity to share something so awesome and get paid for it!

Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder.