There are quite a few reputable free online tax filing services. In this article we’ll look at 10 tax filing services that should be near the top of your list if you’re looking to take advantage of the IRS Free File Alliance program. Below are our favorites.
So we’ve listed our favorite free tax filing services, so why don’t we look at each one a bit more in depth.
TurboTax Free Federal Filing
The TurboTax Federal Free Filing option is perfect for a simple tax situation, providing most of the functionality and features of the paid plans, including live chat support, refund guarantee, and W-2 importing. You can even choose between print and mail filing and e-filing. Additionally, your first state return can be filed for free.
Live chat support and refund guarantee.
Mail filing or e-file.
First state return filed free.
The tax preparation interface is intuitive and can be completed with simple questions to guide you through the filing process. This not only makes it a little less daunting but reduces the chances of a preventable error. There is no maximum income limit, and it is available to residents in all 50 states.
However, the free edition of TurboTax is not appropriate for everyone. If you have a complex tax situation such as rental property income, business income, capital gains income, or significant interest, you’ll need to upgrade to one of the paid plans. Additionally, if you qualify for some of the common tax credits, including student loan interest deduction, the free plan will not be sufficient for your circumstances. At this price point, you’ll also find that the customer support is more limited, it is based primarily on technical issues rather than individual queries.
If you’re looking to pay tax prep fees using your federal refund, you’ll also face a hefty processing fee. However, there are different Turbo Tax plans at different price points, so if the free version is no longer suited to your needs, you can easily upgrade without losing your information.
H&R Block Online Free Edition
H&R Block is one of the best known tax preparation firms in the United States with thousands of storefront outlets across the country. However, the company also has a user friendly, yet powerful online option for those who want to file at home.
If you’re 51 or younger at the end of the most recent tax year, you qualify for Earned Income Tax Credit or your gross AGI was less than $69,000, you are eligible for the H&R free federal filing program that also includes free unlimited state returns.
Free in-person audit support service.
On demand help from tax experts, enrolled agents or CPA.
Local offices as well as online version.
Reputable service with a long history.
This free filing plan is also suited to simple tax situations, but it is not set up to help those with self employment income, rental property income, capital gains or losses, ordinary dividend income or interest. You also need to upgrade to a paid plan if you want to store or access your past year returns. Additionally, there is a hefty fee if you want to use your refund to pay your filing fees when you use the company’s Refund Transfer service.
However, it is important to point out that the free edition does have some great benefits. It is available to residents of all the states, and there are no other restrictions. Everyone who files automatically qualifies for a free, in person audit support service, which includes assistance with your audit prep and hands on advice. Furthermore, if you do run into any issues, you can just walk into your local H&R Block office, but you may have to pay for the extra in person assistance.
TaxAct Free Edition
The free edition of TaxAct is another user friendly platform appropriate for simple tax situations. However, there are some qualifications for this service. You will need to either qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit, be younger than 56 with an AGI of less than $59,000, or have an AGI of less than $69,000 and be active military. The qualifications can be subject to change, so it is a good idea to check the terms and conditions before you start to complete your return.
Free federal and state returns.
$100k accuracy guarantee.
Reputable service with over 65 million returns filed.
The free version of TaxAct used to be quite comprehensive and suitable for almost any tax scenario, but this is no longer true. You’ll need to upgrade if you need to report passive income from rental properties or stock sales or want to itemize your deductions.
However, the free version does waive state return filing fees, so you won’t be out of pocket. Just be aware that there is a fee if you want to pay your federal filing fees with your tax refund.
Credit Karma Tax Free Tax Filing
Credit Karma has just one plan that is totally free for any filer, and it is free to file for both state and federal returns.
While it’s great that it’s free to file for both federal and state returns, the expert support with the service is currently limited. The company is quite small compared to the competition, so if your tax situation is complex and you think you may need help, it may not be your best choice.
Since the service is relatively new there are also some gaps as far as advanced functionality in the platform that may cause problems for those with an complex or advanced tax situation.
Max refund guarantee.
Smart file streamlined filing process.
Free audit defense.
Free for both state and federal returns.
However, Credit Karma Tax does have the ability to pre-fill forms for existing members, which could be a timesaver. There is also 24/7 customer support and free federal and state returns. They also have free audit defense and a max refund guarantee.
The platform’s interface is mobile friendly, and easy to navigate as you wade through filing your return.
TaxSlayer Free File Edition
TaxSlayer is another service with a free file option. There are no citizenship or residency requirements to qualify for the TaxSlayer free file option.
There is free federal filing for those with an AGI of less than $100,000, and one free state return is included. If you need additional state returns, there is a fee.
100% free for simple tax situations.
Maximum refund guaranteed.
Accuracy 100% guaranteed.
File from any device.
The free option does have a couple of small downsides.While it was built to support tax situations with varying complexity, the free plan is really only suitable for the simplest of tax situations.
There are a number of common situations that are not covered with the free plan, including itemized deductions, stock sales, rental property income, self employment income, and Earned Income Tax Credit.
Additionally, you won’t have access to audit assistance or live chat that is offered to those with a paid plan. You can obtain phone support from the TaxSlayer non professional customer support team. Paid plan clients will get priority in the phone queue, however. So if you need to call during a peak period, get set for quite a wait.
IRS Direct Free File
If you have an AGI or over $69,000 and you don’t mind going it alone, it is still possible to take advantage of the IRS Free File system. This is an IRS administered electronic filing system with access to a full database of tax schedules and forms in PDF. To complete your return, you can use the online system to fill in the appropriate forms and use the e-filing system to submit them. If eligible, you’ll receive your refund on the same schedule as you would have with a branded tax preparation online service.
With the Free File forms, your details are automatically saved as you progress, so you don’t need to plan to complete the entire return in one session. Regardless of the complexity of your tax situation, you’ll be able to find the schedules and forms that are needed to complete your return. While there are no income, citizenship status, or age eligibility restrictions, there are some limitations to this service, but these are outlined by the IRS.
Unfortunately, there is one major downside to using Free File. While this may seem like a fantastic free filing option, the IRS offers no support for those who choose this resource. So you need to know exactly how to fill out every schedule and form on your own, or at the very least, have the confidence to navigate the IRS tax preparation resources to find the answers you need.
If you’ve prepared your own taxes in the past and have a fairly straightforward situation, this may not be much of a barrier. If your tax situation is more complex, however, or you’re not comfortable filing unaided, then this is not the best option for you. Even if there is a seemingly trivial error, the IRS may reject your return, and you’ll need to re-file, which will delay your return. The worst case scenario for this is that you may be flagged for an audit.
FreeTaxUSA Free Edition
While FreeTaxUSA may not be the most well known company, their totally free platform supports all of the major schedules and forms in addition to some useful features, including prior year return storage and importing. The service is available for free federal filing in all tax situations regardless of the complexity level.
IRS approved e-file provider.
Max refund guarantee.
100% accuracy guarantee.
Free prior year tax return imports from other services.
Totally free users can also enjoy free live support from the FreeTaxUSA team of customer service professionals, but this roster of pros will struggle to match the bigger competitors. This service is available throughout the U.S, but state returns do have a fee of $12.95 each.
Of course, no system is perfect, and there are some drawbacks to this one. For a start, there is a lack of audit assistance. You will need to upgrade to the Deluxe plan to benefit from the drafting responses, interpreting IRS notices and documentation preparation help to guide you through an audit.
TaxHawk Free Edition
TaxHawk is a partner site of FreeTaxUSA with almost identical services, but TaxHawk has worked to stand apart with extra tiers.TaxHawk provides free federal filing for everyone. So, whether you’re self employed, a side hustler, have student loan interest deductions, or have HSAs, you can use this service.
Free federal tax filing.
No cost federal returns no matter how complex the return.
IRS approved e-file provider.
File FREE With TaxHawk
However, like FreeTaxUSA, TaxHawk isn’t completely free. There is a fee if you need to file state returns. One plus point is that TaxHawk has a calculator built into the platform to help you pay the appropriate taxes in multiple states if needed, just be prepared to pay a fee for every additional state.
If the free service is not the best option for you, TaxHawk does have an interesting tier structure. For example, the affordable Deluxe Plus plan has been specifically designed for those who need phone support and live chat.
ezTaxReturn.com Free File
ezTaxReturn.com offers a free Federal tax filing service, but you need to meet the requirements for simple returns. This includes an AGI of $100,000 or less and other criteria.
You will need to pay for state returns, so it may not be free for your specific circumstances. If you have student loan interest deductions, dependents, or HSA contributions outside of work, you won’t qualify to file your taxes for free.
Simple returns are free.
Free customer support.
Biggest possible refund guaranteed.
Accuracy 100% guaranteed.
Other barriers to free filing include you don’t claim any credits apart from Earned Income Tax Credit, you have taxable interest less than $1,500, and your income must come from a salary, wage, tips, or unemployment compensation. You also won’t be able to use this free service if you need to claim any income adjustments.
If you don’t fit this criteria and need to pay, there is a combined price for filing your federal and state returns, which could represent a decent savings.
Online Taxes at OLT.com Free Federal Edition
Online Taxes has a service to allow everyone to file Federal taxes free, but as with most of these options on our list, there are fees associated with filing state returns. However, the platform is competitively priced with state returns costing $9.95 and decent pricing for more complicated tax situations.
There are two pricing tiers for OLT services, and the free tier includes all the major filing forms, but it does lack tech support. When you upgrade to Premium, you can enjoy phone technical support, live chat, and guaranteed audit assistance. Both of the plans provide access to the major schedules, and it is possible to import previous year data.
OLT has also made improvements to the interface and navigation, without bumping up the prices. However, it may still not be straightforward enough for newbies. It is not a perfect filing solution, but if you’re an experienced filer who appreciates a guarantee of audit assistance at a low cost, this could be the right option for you.
IRS Free File Alliance
The options we’ve discussed are not the only free online tax filing services. If your AGI was $69,000 or less last year and your tax situation is relatively straightforward, you may have eligibility to file through a Free File Alliance provider.
This is a listing service provided by the IRS that offers direct access to approximately a dozen filing services from a consortium of participating companies for free. These tax preparation companies must meet the strict security and quality standards that are set by the IRS.
According to Free File Alliance data, approximately 70% of taxpayers in the U.S are eligible for the free tax filing, and tens of millions of returns have been filed through the program since it was established in the early 2000s.
The participants of this program include some of the well known tax preparation firms such as H&R Block and TurboTax, but there are also lesser known companies and some strictly online companies. In addition to having a $69,000 AGI cap, participating companies have their own eligibility criteria.
However, there are some things to consider regarding your eligibility and qualification for free tax filing:
Qualification: To qualify for free tax filing, you will need to access the company’s filing platform using the Free File website. You may not get the free deal unless you click on the partner site link via the IRS site.
Age: Not all of the platforms impose an age limit, but when the companies do stipulate age limits, they tend to cap at age 50 to 70.
Income: Some of the members of the Free File Alliance impose stricter income thresholds taking them below the $69,000 cap. For example, 1040.com has an income limit of $60,000 or less to use the free file edition.
Citizenship: Some of the free file options are restricted to U.S citizens or permanent residents.This means that if you’re here in the U.S on a work visa or have a temporary arrangement, you will need to check the options to determine if you’re eligible.
Tax Complexity: Some of the companies only offer free tax filing if you have a simple tax situation. This means that if you’re a business owner, independent contractor, investor, or your tax situation is complicated for other reasons, there may be a filing fee. So, it is important that you carefully evaluate the options, so you can choose a company offering free prep for those needing to file Schedule C, D, E, or other common forms for complex situations.
Location: Some of the companies restrict the free services to certain states or locations. However, there are many that are available for all 50 states. Just be sure that you check a service is available in your state before you sign up.
Functionality: Functionality does vary between programs. While some allow importing your prior year information, others may not. This can make filling in the current year return a little more time consuming if you can’t carry across your details. Other companies have limited support resources, so if you need help, you need to check the free program has live chat, phone support, or other customer service options. Since the functionality can vary greatly, it is best to check the fine print before you make a final choice.
Free File Programs For State Taxes
In the 43 states where the collection of state income tax is mandated, you must file a state tax return with your federal return. Fortunately, the Free File Alliance also allows e-filing of state taxes, with the IRS maintaining links with numerous state Free File programs. Only tax filing services that meet the security and quality criteria are included.
As with the federal program, there are eligibility requirements that vary between partners.
According to the IRS, there are Free File partners providing free state tax filing services in the following states:
District of Columbia
Even if you can’t get access to free state tax filing, many of the partner vendors offer discounted rates, so you’ll still enjoy savings.
Free Tax Filing Can Help You Keep More Of Your Money
Most people don’t enjoy filing taxes, even if they feel confident that they are due a refund. Filing takes time and effort, with even the best programs not providing complete protection against mistakes.
Free tax filing can’t make the process more convenient, but at least it will allow you to keep more of your money in your own pocket.
Free file programs are not the best avenue for everyone, however. If your tax situation is complicated, such as owning a business, having multiple investment income sources or you’re self employed, it’s not likely to be save you much on filing your taxes. If you have a complex tax situation you might be better off using a premium paid plan or hiring a certified accountant who can give your tax return some hands on attention anyway.
Have your own free tax filing services that you recommend? Tell us what they are in the comments!
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