If your finances have been hit hard in recent months, the last thing you want to do is shell out more cash to file your taxes — which is already a dreaded experience for many. Fortunately, you may be able to file for free if you meet certain requirements. Here are the most popular free services you may be eligible for.
IRS Free File
About 70% of Americans — 100 million people — are eligible for the IRS Free File program. Sadly, according to Tim Hugo, executive director of the Free File Alliance, only about 3% of people who qualify used it last year.
The program allows you to prepare and file your federal income tax online for free at an IRS partner site. According to the IRS website: “Traditional IRS Free File provides free online tax preparation and filing options on IRS partner sites. Our partners are online tax preparation companies that develop and deliver this service at no cost to qualifying taxpayers. Please note, only taxpayers whose adjusted gross income (or AGI) is $79,000 or less qualify for any IRS Free File partner offers.”
However, if you make more than $79,000, you can still file your federal taxes for free using online forms available on the IRS website, though you will not receive free assistance.
IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance
The IRS’ Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offers free basic tax return preparation to qualified individuals. To qualify, you must make $60,000 or less, have a disability or speak limited English. Through the program, you can meet with an IRS-certified volunteer for tax counseling. The volunteers are often retired individuals associated with nonprofit organizations that receive grants from the IRS.
IRS Tax Counseling for the Elderly
In addition to the VITA program, the IRS offers free basic tax return preparation to those who are 60 and older through the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program. This program is especially helpful for those with questions about pensions and retirement-related issues unique to seniors.
TurboTax Free Edition
If you don’t qualify for any of the IRS programs, you may still be able to file for free via TurboTax’s Free Edition. Filing is done completely online — just upload your W-2 form, answer a few basic questions and TurboTax will help you get your maximum refund.
It’s important to note that this option is only available to those who are filing just a Form 1040 or a Form 1040 plus unemployment income. The free edition does not include itemized deductions; business or 1099-NEC income; stock sales; rental property income; or credits, deductions and income reported on schedules 1-3, such as the student loan interest deduction.
H&R Block Free Online
H&R Block also offers a free filing option. The free online filing option includes federal and state tax prep; the earned income credit; deductions for student tuition, payments and loan interest; and retirement income reporting.
If your tax situation is more complex or if you require support, you would need to upgrade to one of H&R Block’s paid options.
Credit Karma Tax
Credit Karma Tax is free to use for all filers and can be used for both state and federal taxes, and they advertise that it can sometimes be done in as little as 10 minutes. Credit Karma Tax supports the most common tax forms, including a dozen different types of 1099s, itemized deductions (Schedule A), business profits or losses (Schedule C), claiming the child tax credit (Schedule 8812) and claiming the earned income credit (Schedule EIC).
Not all tax forms are supported, however. You will need to sign up for a free Credit Karma account in order to use Credit Karma Tax.
TaxAct offers a Free Edition that allows you to prepare and file your federal taxes online at no cost, if your tax situation is relatively straightforward. You can qualify to file for free if you are only filing a basic IRS Form 1040 with income from sources like W-2s, unemployment and retirement accounts, and no additional forms or schedules. Other situations covered include claiming credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit, declaring dependents, being a current college student or deducting student loan interest.
Essentially, if your federal taxes consist of normal W-2 income without any complex itemization or business deductions, you can likely use TaxAct’s Free Edition to file. Do note, though, that this free federal filing does not include state tax returns — you would need to upgrade to Tax Act’s Deluxe Edition for state filing, which starts at $39.95 in additional cost. But for simple federal tax situations, TaxAct offers a way to file at no cost.
Laura Beck contributed to the reporting for this article.
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