Use FreeFile to File Your Tax Return for Free

Tax season is in full swing, and again this year, the Internal Revenue Service is offering a program that allows many U.S. taxpayers to electronically file their tax returns for free:

The Free File program provides free federal income tax preparation and electronic filing for eligible taxpayers through a partnership between the Internal Revenue Service and the Free File Alliance LLC, a group of private sector tax software companies. Many companies offer free or paid state tax preparation and efiling services. Some companies may not offer state tax preparation and e-file services for all states.

I've shared this service with GRS readers in the past, and will do so every year in the future (so long as the program exists). I think it's awesome.

  • For the 2010 tax year, you can use Traditional Free File (where you use tax software with step-by-step help) if your adjusted gross income is $58,000 or less. By using software, you don't have to do the math, and the programs check your inputs for accuracy. (Note that not every partner company provides state tax preparation.) This year, the IRS has a “help me find a Free File company” wizard to match users to the appropriate program.
  • There's also a version of Free File with no income limits. This option doesn't include any sort of fancy software or step-by-step help; instead, you fill out online versions of blank IRS forms 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ. (The forms do have basic calculation abilities.) There's no state option with these free fillable forms.

Free File is a great deal for many people. Check into it if you haven't done your taxes yet. For more info, read the Free File FAQ at the IRS website. (The IRS website is actually awesome. You can find tons of tax info there. I'm not ashamed to admit that I've spent many hours digging through their resources.)

If you've used Free File before, please share your impressions. I'm sure other GRS readers would welcome hints and tips. For myself, I'll be off to see my accountant as soon as I return from Africa. I don't qualify for Free File — and besides, my accountant always saves me money. (He's better at doing taxes than I am, believe it or not.)

Postscript: Moneywise Moms has posted a list of where to file state income tax returns for free &mash; if you live in one of 20 qualifying states.

 

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Waves
Waves
13 years ago

H&R Block/Travelocity are offering a free copy of Taxcut Premium and Deduction Pro for download. After you add to cart, make sure you remove Extended Download Protection from cart to get it all free.

link

Adam
Adam
13 years ago

I just used H&R Block’s free online version, as well, and I had no problems. Helped me pick out the right education credit, as well. Unfortunately the state return wasn’t free. Oregon has three listed on the DOR site, but I ended up just doing it on paper. Might be worth finding one that can do both your state and federal for free, just to get it done in one go.

samerwriter
samerwriter
13 years ago

Actually, the good news is nearly *every* taxpayer can take advantage of filing their taxes for free.

Just print your taxes out, put them in an envelope with a couple stamps (OK, it’s not *completely* free), and drop them off at the post office.

It’s easy, and nearly free!

COB
COB
13 years ago

I did our CA state tax return for free online at http://www.ftb.ca.gov/ It was linked from irs.gov. There are sites where people can do their state taxes for free!

Greg C
Greg C
13 years ago

I prepared my own on paper until 2003. Then I started using HR Block online- free the first year and I think 9.95 every year since. This year I paid extra to file state at the same time. In years past my state had free eFile, but I moved and wasn’t familiar with the new state’s setup.

vb23q6etcgo1
vb23q6etcgo1
13 years ago

The IRS once wanted to provide free tax software for everyone. The corporate interests felt this would not be in their economic interests. What you have above is the result.

RazzBari
RazzBari
13 years ago

I qualified for free file, but I needed to take both the energy star and mortgage certificate credits. I tried three different sites (including H&R Block) and none of them said up front which forms they did and didn’t support. Was 2/3 of the way through filing before I found out I couldn’t use the service. Finally gave up and mailed the thing in, then waited 5 weeks for the refund.

If states can provide a means for their residents to file online at no charge, why can’t the federal government?

KlfJoat
KlfJoat
13 years ago

I’ve used the FreeFile online system since 2001 or 2002. My first year, I used some medium-sized company… maybe TurboTax. But since then, I’ve used H&R Block. The software just works, and it’s easy to use. Plus, it’s worth it to me to pay the state fee since it means I don’t have to use my state’s horrible phone system or install extra software on my computer. Speaking of computers, let me bring up two points, one of which is relevant here. First, the H&R Block online service WILL work with non-Microsoft operating systems. So those of you with a… Read more »

Connie White
Connie White
13 years ago

I need to fill out a 2001 return. Where can I go to do that online?

S.
S.
12 years ago

I don’t know about other states, but I know that Virginia lets you file your state taxes for free through their website. You’ll need to have your federal done first, but once you have that, it takes about five minutes.

Katrina R.
Katrina R.
12 years ago

Does this qualify for the self-employed or just those filing a 1040? Looked into this today on irs.gov and jut couldn’t figure that part out.

NJS
NJS
12 years ago

My girlfriend used Freefile and the experience was pretty painless and quick for her. (She needed a 1040EZ, but I think it can handle the 1040A too).

One thing they don’t tell you about Freefile: you either need to know numbers from your previous year’s return or else you still need to mail in a little authorization form via the mail.

Personally, I still prefer doing my taxes using pen and paper. However, my return took three weeks longer than my girlfriend’s to come in.

HollyP
HollyP
12 years ago

For those who don’t qualify for FreeFile, TaxAct is an online preparer which charges only the $17 or so to transmit your return to the IRS. Using their online software is free (vs. paying $30 or $50 for the H&R Block software, plus their $17 filing fee.)

Anca
Anca
12 years ago

It’s only a matter of time before this will be the case (I hope), but I can’t believe that it’s 2008 and it’s not possible for everyone in every state to file federal and state taxes online for free directly through the fed/state IRS.

Incognita
Incognita
12 years ago

Katrina: I think it depends on which ‘free file’ company you use. Some support self-employment and others do not. You have to check out each one independently to see. NJS: I prefer |pencil| and paper myself. I did two returns this year, both on paper… and then because they qualified for free submission, I entered them online… One of them turned out perfectly (as in everything matched up nicely), but the second piece of online software would NOT allow me to ‘take’ a particular itemized deduction that is allowed in our state. I hemmed and hawed a bit over the… Read more »

Stephen Martile
Stephen Martile
12 years ago

thanks for the reminder JD,

I better get started on those taxes 🙂

Tony
Tony
12 years ago

The first year I used Free File, I was directed to TaxAct.com. I used it to EFile my taxes, and it was great. The next year, I went back to Free File, and found that I no longer qualified because my AGI was too high. I was disappointed and a little angry, and was preparing to file a paper return, when I decided to go to TaxAct again just to check. Turns out that while I didn’t qualify for FreeFile, I still qualified to EFile for free at TaxAct. Most recently, I skipped the IRS site altogether and went directly… Read more »

Justin
Justin
12 years ago

I had an interesting experience this year involving this. Last year I used H&R Block to do my taxes, because they openly advertised doing it for free. I go back this year, and there is no free option. The lowest I could pick was like $25 or $30. I know I qualify for the free filing, so I found the IRS website and used their link to H&R Block’s free file, and lo and behold, there’s the free filing option! Moral of the story: Once I no longer qualify for the free filing, I’m not going to use H&R Block… Read more »

Jennifer
Jennifer
12 years ago

Use TaxAct.com. We’ve used this the last 3 years to do our taxes. It is easy and free to E-file a federal return. Each time our refund was deposited to our account within 2 – 3 weeks. We live in a state that does not have income taxes, but to file a state return costs $16.95.

Bean
Bean
12 years ago

I used the freefile about a week ago to do my taxes. Ended up going to h&r block’s website to do it, was pretty painless.

kathryn
kathryn
12 years ago

I agree with a couple of others…why on earth are we paying some third party (this year I paid $17.95) to transmit each and every return? This is gotta be a huge money maker for somebody. The way I see it, the IRS is saving a lot (probably almost $17.95) each time a return does not have to be keypunched into the system by humans, so they should be able to absorb the cost of electronic submission and still save money. Perhaps allowing companies to charge was originally a way to offset the set-up costs (servers/software/etc.), but the economies of… Read more »

Eric
Eric
12 years ago

Several people have cited TaxAct as a good company and I am here to agree.

I started with TaxAct in 2001 or 2002 because they offered a free program. Two years later I paid up the small charge which is well worth it since the program will automatically load all that info from the previous year’s filing. For about $12 and no efiling charge it is the best deal around!

Gan Daalf
Gan Daalf
12 years ago

For the benefit of GRSers from the Land of Lincoln: Illinois offers a free e-file for state income tax.

Start at Illinois IRS website: http://tax.illinois.gov/

Cheers,
Gan

Rondondo
Rondondo
12 years ago

I just filed yesterday for free by going directly to the TurboTax web site. There is no income limitation, but if you need specific tips/guidance, them prompt you to pay for it. I use the 1040, am married with one child and itemize typical deductions such as mortgage interest, property and local income taxes, charitable contributions, etc. The prep is free and the e-file is free too! What a deal!

broadbill
broadbill
12 years ago

@Rondondo: The only way you received free efiling from Turbotax is if you are below the AGI limit where the IRS allows you to efile for free. Any and all of the tax prep software allows for free filing under these circumstances. For those of us above that AGI limit Turbo tax is one of the priciest packages around. I also vote for TaxAct….way cheaper than the big tax prep guys and just as good (turbotax, HR block). It also blows my mind that I can send the IRS a paper copy of my tax return for 41 cents but… Read more »

TTN
TTN
12 years ago

turbotax now has a free version. no income level requirements.

Mary
Mary
12 years ago

My son forgot to file his 2006 taxes. Is there a website where I can file them for him for free?

Earl Kelly
Earl Kelly
11 years ago

Free file is great! I encourage my simple 1040 clients to prepare their own returns and offer to review it with them to provide assurance that they did it right. And using free file makes it even easier. In the big picture, by doing it themselves, the mystery of filing a return is removed and increases their financial knowledge and comfort! This will pay HUGE dividends to our young taxpayers as they mature and encounter life’s financial maze of decisions and choices.

Mattyg
Mattyg
11 years ago

I agree with Earl Kelly. Once you’ve done your taxes yourself once it removes the mystery and it is empowering.

It is like looking behind the curtain and seeing the wizard of OZ. Doing your own taxes can be really easy witht the right software.

I did my taxes side by side to see where would get a bigger refund and FreeTaxUSA beat TurboTax by $200. http://tinyurl.com/freetaxusa

It’s worth checking out at least.

Jessica
Jessica
10 years ago

I’m about to file my taxes online for this year(2009), last year i used turbotax because i had heard most about that site. But, this year there seems to be alot more hype on many different sites, can anyone help and give me their opinion or advice on which site/service i should use to get the best refund for the lowest cost, or if i am lucky free. I appreciate any help…thanks to all!! Happy tax filing!

Steve
Steve
9 years ago

How can one tell (or estimate) if an accountant would save them money?

David S
David S
9 years ago

Having used Free file it is great if you usually do the forms yourself but if you do not know which form to use or which deduction to take you can miss out.
Usually I do my own forms anyway however this year I tried out TaxAct (www.TaxAct.com) since they offering to do your federal return for free and they ask you the basic questions to get the most common deductions.

Note: One thing to watch out for (if you use TaxAct) is that they are always trying to get you to upgrade to their paid service.

ListfulWistful
ListfulWistful
9 years ago

Normally I’m a paper gal for my taxes, but this year mine were a little more complicated, so I thought I’d try to file electronically (as I figured it would be more accurate than I might be). I was filing in two states, and fortunately, there was a freefile program that included both of my states. I picked up a paper copy at the library and did my best to figure out what my taxes (and return) would be. Then, I used freefile. Fortunately, the numbers matched! It was easy to actually file/submit them, and I didn’t have to worry… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
9 years ago

Did it Feb 1 through Turbo Tax and it was a piece of cake, got a nice fat refund soon to be wired to my bank. We did a simple return and took the standard deduction, It was way quicker than doing the numbers on paper, which is always a nightmare because of the little boxes and where you’re supposed to fill them and you check and recheck and oh, surprise, you made a mistake and have to start with a clean form. Doesn’t happen here. This is the first time in AGES that I don’t a) file on April… Read more »

Pat S.
Pat S.
9 years ago

Tax Act is free for all federal returns, and allows you to file both federal and state returns online, accelerating your tax return process. (It does cost money to file your state return online through Tax Act, however).
Pat
http;//compoundingreturns.blogspot.com

MaryW
MaryW
9 years ago

I used Free File for my 2010 taxes. It was amazing and very easy to use. It has a caluculate button that preforms some of the simple mathematics and transfers data from worksheets. With access to the IRS form instruction booklet it allows for further understanding of why you did/didn’t qualify for certain deductions and/or credits. Submitted my taxes on January 28th and tracked my expected refund (on irs.gov) for February 15th. My refund amount matched the amount turbotax gave me when I ran my numbers through their site (I, however, didn’t submit my taxes through Turbotax).

Drew
Drew
9 years ago

@Steve (#1): In the interests of full disclosure, I say this as a licensed CPA who has worked at a firm that provides tax preparation services. If one is looking to go the “save money” route, hiring an accountant is probably not the answer. While one can very easily find an accountant that won’t break the bank and will maximize their refund, tax preparation software has made such progress that one can most likely get the same refund (thus, “saving” the difference between the software and the accountant) by picking up a copy at a local office store and doing… Read more »

Brenton
Brenton
9 years ago

You only need an accountant if you have lots of transactions to file. If you dont work for yourself, have no side business, dont actively trade stocks or other investments in a non-tax advantaged account, etc… then you should be able to file taxes yourself. If you own your business, trade frequently, etc… then you might be better off seeing an accountant. I’ve used free file before. Usually you get to file the federal tax for free electronically, and then they try to stick you with a $15.99 charge to electronically file your state taxes. Since its already calculated for… Read more »

Kevin M
Kevin M
9 years ago

Steve – having an accountant is similar to other professional relationships – doctors, veterinarians, etc. It is nice to be able to call him/her and bounce questions off and plan ahead. Otherwise, we become reactive and simply filing tax returns on April 15th when there is nothing we can change. This is especially true if you have a business, like JD. Some people feel comfortable preparing their own tax returns, some don’t and thus look for professional help. Taxes are one of the biggest personal expenses we have, sometimes it makes sense to pay a pro to help reduce that… Read more »

KT
KT
9 years ago

I have never paid to file my taxes. I have always been able to use online forms from one of the major brand names and file for freeeeeeee! The software programs ask you all the questions to determine your deductions. I think this is the way to go unless you own a small business.

Steve
Steve
9 years ago

@KT – until recently all forms of free e-filing have had an income limitation.

Steven
Steven
9 years ago

I used H&R Block (and I have used Turbo Tax before). The free programs both offer are plenty sufficient for the majority of people (even homeowners like myself). I really think this comes down to confidence in your abilities vs. the cost of an error. If you want to pay $30 for the software, or $100 for a professional, I’d say that’s worth the peace of mind. But really, taxes are not that complex for 99% of people.

Leah
Leah
9 years ago

I plan on using an accountant when my money gets more complicated (as in, enough deductions to actually itemize). But, at my age, taxes are pretty much just making sure I have all my numerous W2s from my many jobs 🙂 I use the free version of Turbo Tax. My state has a free-file option through Turbo Tax for my income level, which is nice. For a few years, I managed to have W2s from more than one state each year, and Turbo Tax has done really well with helping me figure out exactly how much to pay. I’ve used… Read more »

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
9 years ago

Last year I did my own taxes. I sent in my forms and my payment, and several months later got a bill from the IRS for $9,000.

I immediately hired a tax guy (a recommendation from a friend) who resolved the $9,000 bill and turned it into a $9 refund.

Guess who will be doing my taxes this year?
Hint: not me. Not even for free.

Mike B.
Mike B.
9 years ago

I’ll admit, I’ve never seen the point of paying a human to do your taxes for you, in most cases. Things are either deductible or they’re not. If you didn’t know they were deductible, you probably didn’t save the documentation needed to deduct it. I can see the advantage where you have a huge number of transactions and you just don’t want to deal with them. But I wouldn’t think that’s most of the population…. A computer program, like any good software, is useful automation for filling out very tedious forms, looking things up on tables, doing the calculations. Saves… Read more »

Kate
Kate
9 years ago

We filed for free through Taxact.com like we have for the past several years. It’s easy and quick. Taxact does prompt repeatedly to pay for the upgrade but I just click no and continue. We don’t have a state income tax so no worries there. We had our first child last year and wow did that bump up our return. I’ve already adjusted the W4 for this year. Our return is already pending in our bank account.

csdx
csdx
9 years ago

I’ve used the free fillable forms last year, prior to that I’d used some kind of tax program. The only part that gave me pause was that I withdrew some of the money I had been tossing in my Roth IRA, so figuring out just what ‘basis’ meant was the most complicated part. I did a sanity check against H&R’s software, and even got the exact number, so just sent in my paperwork (had to be mailed due to homebuyer credit). Really all most of my taxes are involve gathering up the various documents I get mailed and tallying them… Read more »

Edward - If You Can Read, You Can Cook
Edward - If You Can Read, You Can Cook
9 years ago

I’ve never paid to do my taxes, not a person and not for software. When I was in college, I just filled out the forms myself, I didn’t have anything that couldn’t be done in 5 minutes with the 1040EZ. The last few years, I’ve been using free online services. Taxact is the most aggregious of them, but all of the major free filing services will attempt at several points to get you to upgrade to a paid version. As far as state income tax, I let the website figure out the amounts, and then I just fill out the… Read more »

Gina
Gina
9 years ago

Thanks for the link, JD.

I agree with Mike B. above–it’s always been worth it to me to pay a little bit for a computer program to save me the time in tracking down the right forms. Even with a home business and itemizing, it’s been accurate and quick.

Sara
Sara
9 years ago

I have used Turbo Tax Deluxe the last three years (do not qualify for free version), and think it does an excellent job walking through all steps. I keep a tax folder all year so that I have everything I need to help me prepare the next year, including a checklist of all back-up from the year before. I go down my checklist to make sure I’ve received all 1099s, etc. that I got the year before and when everything is in, I can file. The only frustration this year is that I’m forced to wait until mid-February to actually… Read more »

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