8 Handy Tools That Make Free Tax Filing Possible
It’s that time of year again — tax season. Wondering where to start? Overwhelmed by advertising promises for tax prep help?
Don’t dive in — or pay up — until you check out 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.
After two years of extended filing deadlines because of the global pandemic, we are back to our more traditional April date. This year, Tax Day is Tuesday, April 18.
8 Ways to File Your Taxes for Free
Tax time has gotten a bit of a bad rap, but it doesn’t have to be so scary. There are plenty of options to file taxes for free, and in many cases you can even get assistance throughout the process at no charge. Here are eight of our favorite free tax preparation services.
1. The IRS
The IRS offers two versions of its Free File program.
The IRS offers two versions of its Free File program. If your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) was less than $73,000 in 2022, you can file your federal return for free through online software. The IRS doesn’t directly provide this service, but it partners with a number of tax preparation companies to facilitate the process in a program called the Free File Alliance.
Some state returns are available for free through these companies, so check for your state before choosing one to file your federal return. If they’re not available, you’ll need to file your state return separately.
Additionally, anyone can e-file their taxes for free directly through the IRS — regardless of income. This is primarily intended as an option for those that come in above the $73,000 AGI threshold, but that’s not a strict requirement.
While the IRS tool provides basic calculations, it doesn’t hold your hand through the process like the IRS’s partners at the lower income level. That means more manual calculations. Additionally, state tax prep isn’t available at this level.
2. United Way MyFreeTaxes
United Way offers the MyFreeTaxes program to people in nearly every basic tax situation. Depending on whether your income was less than or greater than $73,000 last year, you’ll be directed to one of two different self-preparation options, both of which are simple enough to use.
There’s also an option for people that need additional assistance and support filing their taxes. In these cases, United Way pulls in nonprofit partners that are part of the IRS’ Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. This is specifically for anyone who made less than $60,000 in 2022.
United Way’s tax filing services are safe, secure, and have been used by over a million people to date, so you can feel confident with them.
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, you’ve been able to file your federal taxes through TurboTax for free, but then you had to pay $30 or more to prepare your state returns. Now, TurboTax offers federal and state tax preparation for free. The company also guarantees 100% accurate calculations, so you don’t have to be worried about filing electronically.
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.
Check out The Penny Hoarder review of TurboTax.
4. H&R Block Free Edition
H&R Block offers a free option for those filing simple returns. This company has been in business for a long time, and offers a lot of useful resources beyond tax preparation.
The aptly-named online Free Edition allows you to e-file federal returns for free, and a state return option is now included with the package — a big convenience.
Note: if you’re expecting a hefty refund, you can get an additional bonus from H&R Block.
When you e-file, choose to receive some or all of your refund as an Amazon gift card. If you do, H&R Block will kick in an extra 3% toward the gift card amount.
Check out The Penny Hoarder review of H&R Block Online.
If a 1040EZ is all you need to file, TaxSlayer will help you do it online for free.
The Simply Free edition offers a deduction finder, and you can add your state return at no charge. TaxSlayer also offers unlimited phone and email support, even with the free tier, which is a major plus.
Finally, active-duty military receive a free classic edition federal tax return through TaxSlayer offers, making this a great option for service members.
If you simply need to file a 1040EZ/A, federal and state returns are free with TaxAct.
TaxAct’s biggest differentiator is free, unlimited support from certified CPAs on all of its tax products, including the free tier. The company calls this Xpert Assist, and it’s a useful perk for anyone that might need a little extra help when filing.
Check out The Penny Hoarder review of TaxAct.
7. Liberty Tax Service
Wondering if Liberty Tax Service offers a free filing option? It does, but you wouldn’t guess it looking at FreeTax — no Statue of Liberty logos here.
FreeTax 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.
Both FreeTax and ESmart are solid options if you feel more comfortable with the Liberty Tax name.
eFile.com offers free basic federal filing and advises this option if you’re single or married and filing jointly with no dependents.
If you need to file a state return and expect a refund, you can choose to have the fee for your state filing deducted from your refund. You can get 30% off if you file with your state when you enter the promo code “50eFile.com.”
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 is also 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 finance.
Whether you choose to go directly through the IRS or opt for a private company, there have never been more options available for taxpayers to file for free.
Beware Of ‘Freemium’ Tax Software Upgrades
Filing for free is great — but be careful. Many tax software companies provide a free version of their product, then require users to pay for additional tax forms and upgrades.
It’s a practice known as “freemium” and TurboTax got in trouble for it recently.
In March 2022, the Federal Trade Commission issued an administrative complaint against Intuit (the parent company of TurboTax) for “deceiving consumers with bogus advertisements pitching ‘free’ tax filing that millions of consumers could not use.”
TurboTax might be free to use through the IRS Free File program (like we described earlier) but more complicated returns cost more.
Itemizing your return or claiming certain tax credits and deductions, for example, forces you to upgrade to their deluxe version, which costs $59 for a federal return plus $54 for a state return.
Reporting investment income or rental income bumps you up to the $89 premium tier and people who are self-employed pay $119 for that service.
Tax software companies often push other services too, like live tax assistance with a professional. Opting for this upgrade will set you back $89 with TurboTax.
If you’re trying to file your taxes for free through the IRS’ Free File program, start the process on the IRS website. You won’t be able to take advantage of Free File benefits if you go directly to a company’s website.
Also be aware that while there are many free tax filing options out there, you may need to pay extra to file a more complicated return. Explore all your options — and read the fine print — before filing your return.
Lisa Rowan was a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder and freelancer Dave Schafer contributed to this report. Senior writer Rachel Christian and freelancer Kent McDill contributed to this report.