As tax day nears, free filing solutions have become an increasingly popular way of filing on time while keeping paperwork to a minimum. But these products come with limitations that might not work for every situation.
17 years ago, Intuit and other companies formed the Free File Alliance to offer commercial tax software to Americans making under certain income thresholds at no cost and waive state returns and provide loans and audit defense services as part of this alliance.
Free File Fillable Forms
Free File is an IRS program that offers step-by-step tax preparation from an IRS partner for federal returns and some state filings at no cost to taxpayers with adjusted gross income (AGI) below $73,000, along with forms and publications in accessible formats to support those with specific needs.
This service features products from private-sector software providers like H&R Block and Intuit, but most of the alliance’s offerings utilize an interview format where questions about income are used to populate an electronic form fillable by individuals – thus excluding self-employed workers, freelancers, and gig workers from its coverage.
Alliance members that offer Free File software use the latest security technologies to keep your return information safe, and participate in initiatives such as Security Summit Initiative to provide better protections from identity theft. When combined with e-filing and direct deposit, Free File offers one of the quickest routes to receiving a refund.
Free File Online
Free File Online offers intuitive software for easily preparing and electronically filing your federal tax return for free, through a partnership between the IRS and approximately 20 software providers.
Use the IRS website’s Free File Lookup Tool to discover which partners offer free online filing based on your particular circumstances, and test their software until finding one you prefer best.
TaxSlayer provides free online filing with its Simply Free tier for those filing simple returns (Form 1040EZ or 1040A). However, this tier does have strict limitations, including income limits and an inability to claim credits like Earned Income Credit and Child Tax Credit; contributors of health savings accounts or itemized deductions cannot use this feature; please see our full TaxSlayer review for more information. Other software providers charge per filing year you file with them; our review offers more insight.
Free File Software
TurboTax, TaxSlayer and H&R Block all provide user-friendly online tax filing software that makes the filing process quick and painless, offering maximum refund guarantees and mobile apps with maximum refund amounts guaranteed. Unfortunately, however, their free tiers may not provide support for student loan interest expenses, medical deductions or IRA contributions – something which these programs don’t currently support.
These programs don’t impose income or age restrictions and can help you complete your taxes, however they only offer limited program guidance and can only handle basic math equations. Furthermore, they do not include state return preparation options.
If you need additional assistance filing your return, consider paying for a higher-end product. Cryptocurrency traders, stock traders, landlords and side hustlers could especially benefit from paid software with more robust support features; but keep in mind that even paying can get costly over time if filing multiple forms.
Free File State
Many states offer their own versions of Free File, providing free state tax filing to taxpayers who meet income and other eligibility requirements. Oregon taxpayers, for instance, can e-file using padirectfile program or use fillable forms that help with basic calculations without providing guidance.
New Jersey’s Division of Taxation offers NJWebFile, which allows qualifying residents to use either a partner product supporting all state returns or fillable form without needing supporting documents. Furthermore, this program protects its users by not offering bank products with fees such as Refund Anticipation Loans and Refund Anticipation Checks that could compromise them further.
Finding truly free options may be hard, and even services that claim they are free can often put up paywalls after you spend time entering information or have limited form support. To prevent scamming, read up on and use the IRS’ Free File Look-Up tool carefully when choosing which provider or option.