According to an estimate by the IRS, Americans are expected to file over 150 million individual returns for tax year 2019. Although all taxpayers must file a return and pay what they owe, there’s no reason to navigate those complicated forms and confusing tax laws alone.
- IRS Free File
- TurboTax Free Edition
- H&R Block Free Online
- Credit Karma Tax
- Which Is the Best Free Tax Software for You?
When choosing free tax software, why not go right to the source? The IRS Free File program provides taxpayers with state-of-the-art tax preparation software through an organization called the Free File Alliance. Most top tax software companies are members of the alliance, including tax prep giants H&R Block, TurboTax and TaxSlayer.
Every year, millions of taxpayers use Free File to quickly, safely and accurately complete their returns. Filers with incomes of $64,000 and below can file electronically for free by using the convenient e-file option. Those with incomes over $64,000 are required to print their returns and file by mail.
- Free of charge to all taxpayers
- Name brand software
- Step-by-step guidance and comprehensive customer service
- Strict privacy and data security
- Services limited for taxpayers with over $64,000 in income
- State-specific software not available in every case
- Distracting advertising
TurboTax receives consistently high marks from users, who appreciate its easy-to-use interface. The free version of this popular software includes many of the same features that are included in the paid editions. In the event of an IRS audit, TurboTax offers guidance and advice from an experienced tax professional.
Once your taxes are filed and your refund is on its way, you might appreciate learning more about your financial health with the complimentary Turbo feature, which supplies your income, credit score and debt-to-income ratio, along with explanations and personalized advice on each.
TurboTax Free Edition is ideal for customers who have W-2 income and take the standard deduction. Taxpayers who itemize deductions or have different types of income can still file online or download the TurboTax Basic, Deluxe, Premier or Home & Business bundles for a fee.
- Available in English and Spanish
- Free filing for federal and state simple returns
- Easy to upload and import tax data
- Step-by-step guidance
- 24/7 online support
- CompleteCheck double-checks your return for accuracy
- Only simple returns with no schedules are free
- Heavy advertising and upselling
- Refund advances are available to select customers only
H&R Block stands behind all of its tax preparation software, including H&R Block Free Online, with a maximum refund guarantee, professional audit support and a promise of 100% accuracy. As with its paid software, H&R Block’s free online option uses an interactive Q&A interface to guide taxpayers through the filing process. Although some users report that it might not be as easy to use as TurboTax, it remains an excellent choice for taxpayers looking for the best free tax software.
Users who don’t meet the qualifications for free filing can receive in-person service at a local H&R Block office or can purchase more comprehensive versions of H&R Block software for a fee, depending on how complicated their tax situation is. Get your taxes done by one of H&R Block’s tax professionals, and you’ll have the option to request a refund advance of up to $3,500.
- Free federal and state filing for qualified customers
- Complimentary income tax and refund calculator
- Autofill W-2 from a photo
- Online technical support via instant chat
- Convenient help center for answers to common tax questions
- Easy drag-and-drop transfer of your previous year’s return
- Layered data security and privacy protection
- Accuracy check and audit protection
- Terms and concepts aren’t always well explained
- Navigation tabs might take some getting used to
There is a simple reason Credit Karma Tax is ranked as one of the best free tax filing options. It truly is free, not just for filing basic federal and state returns, but for more complex returns as well. All that’s required to access Credit Karma Tax is signing up for Credit Karma’s flagship credit monitoring service, which does require inputting your Social Security number. That service provides free credit reports from all three major credit bureaus along with credit monitoring and weekly credit score updates. In addition, users receive access to financial calculators and educational articles, plus targeted product promotions based on the information found in credit reports.
Unfortunately, not all tax forms are supported by the platform, so not all filers will be able to use the service.
- File for free with minimal upsell
- Maximum refund guarantee
- Accurate calculations guaranteed
- Complimentary audit defense with Tax Protection Plus
- Jump-start feature allows quick W-2 upload
- Online help center provides answers to tax questions
- Accuracy review before submission
- No drag-and-drop option for previous returns
- Credit Karma membership required
- Site navigation can be a challenge
- Doesn’t support all forms
As long as your tax situation is relatively simple, you can take advantage of some of the best free tax preparation software options that are available online via these reputable providers. Which one is best depends on your tax situation and your level of comfort using software to complete your returns. The Free File platform is offered by the IRS, but state filing isn’t necessarily free, and not all states participate. You can file state returns using the other options, and TurboTax and Credit Karma can even help you take control of your credit. Although H&R Block might not be the easiest to use, the optional no-interest loan against your refund might make up for it.
Find out how tax deductions work so that you’re able to maximize yours this year.
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This content is not provided by the companies mentioned. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author alone and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the companies mentioned.
This article has been updated with additional reporting since its original publication.