If you’ve never taken advantage of the many free tax-filing options out there, you could be missing out. There are several free or low-cost options that will not only save you money but also promise to simplify the process of filing your taxes.
Here is a look at several free online tax filing services.
Top free or cheap tax filing services
The following do-it-yourself online tax filing options will offer big-time savings if you’re used to paying a tax pro to handle all of your paperwork. However, some free services aren’t available to homeowners or other taxpayers with itemized deductions. And many of them try to upsell users to paid services during the process.
Finally, it’s critical to use any links provided when you enter a “file for free” site (see the note under MyFreeTaxes.com, for example). A Pro Publica reporter wrote about her “soul sucking” experience with free tax software in which she ended up paying to file her state taxes because she didn’t log in with a special referral link.
The preceding warnings aren’t meant to discourage you from using a free filing service; they’re just a heads-up so you “don’t let some fun buttons lure you into paying more than you need to,” in the words of the Pro Publica article.
Armed with that information, here are some top free tax filing sites.
EDITOR’S NOTE: In March 2022, the Federal Trade Commission issued an administrative complaint against Intuit Inc., maker of the popular TurboTax software. The FTC said it acted against TurboTax “for deceiving consumers with bogus advertisements pitching ‘free’ tax filing that millions of consumers could not use. In addition, to prevent ongoing harm to consumers rushing to file their taxes, the Commission also filed a federal district court complaint asking a court to order Intuit to halt its deceptive advertising immediately.”
We have included TurboTax in the list below but are making reference of the FTC action. Intuit denies the allegations.
1. IRS Free File
The IRS offers Free File, a service that allows people earning $73,000 or less to choose from a variety of online tax software options. (The $73,000 figure is a bit misleading, however. That is the IRS’ limit, but some of the software providers have limits that are a lot lower.)
The Free File Alliance, as it’s called, is a partnership between the IRS and eight independent software providers. Some participating Free File companies offer free state tax prep and e-file. Users choose from among the participating software offerings, file their returns electronically and receive their refunds by direct deposit.
Those with an income limit of $73,000 can file their own taxes on MyFreeTaxes.com, which is sponsored by the United Way. The free service covers both federal and state taxes. Important note: MyFreeTaxes works in partnership with TaxSlayer. The FAQs on MyFreeTaxes.com includes this information:
“If you start at www.MyFreeTaxes.com, select on the “File myself” option, and use the referral link we provide you to access the TaxSlayer software, you will not be charged.
“Please do navigate to TaxSlayer through MyFreeTaxes and immediately log into your TaxSlayer account to associate your account with our referral link. If you navigate to TaxSlayer directly, or use a link from another website, we cannot guarantee you won’t accidentally access one of TaxSlayer’s paid products.”
3. TurboTax Free Edition (see editor’s note above)
The major commercial tax companies are also getting in on the free offerings, but you might have to shell out a few bucks for state filing or other advanced services. TurboTax’s Federal Free Edition covers simple tax returns, and its free TurboTax Live Basic package offers a live on-screen help function if you need an expert to walk you through the process. You can also ask questions of the online TurboTax community.
4. H&R Block
H&R Block offers free online filing of simple federal and state returns for students, unemployment income and W-2 employees. The free tax-filing option does not come with access to a help desk; that costs $39.99.
Taxact.com is offering free federal and state tax returns for those filing simple 1040 EZ/A returns. Simple filers can get the free option, and other packages cost up to $79.95 for the self-employed package, with an additional cost for state filing.
Another online tax preparation service, TaxSlayer will let taxpayers with a simple tax situation (Basic 1040) file one free federal and one free state return. Other packages start at $17.95 for federal tax filing (additional $36.95 for each state); the self-employed option starts at $47.95 for a federal return.