How to file your taxes for free

Free tax solutions no matter how you file

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Tax season doesn't have to be overwhelming and expensive.

Many taxpayers qualify for free tax filing services through the Internal Revenue Service, either due to filing status, income or military status. Some tax software programs offer either free federal or state returns for everyone, which can cut your tax prep bill in half.

Karla Dennis, an enrolled agent and founder of Karla Dennis and Associates, a tax and accounting firm in La Palma, California, says that it is safe to file your taxes for free without an accountant. “You want to initiate the tax filing by going directly to a reputable online software service. Do not click on links, ads or pop-ups that are unsolicited,” she said.


Key insights

  • The IRS offers free tax help to low-income individuals as well as those who are disabled or over 60 or speak limited English.
  • Everyone qualifies for a free federal filing, but you might have to complete it yourself through the IRS website if your income is over $73,000.
  • Many companies will file simple returns for free if you have a basic 1040 return.

Who qualifies for IRS Free File?

The IRS Free File program is designed to help taxpayers who earn less than a certain amount to file their federal tax returns for free using tax software provided by private companies. Generally speaking, taxpayers with an adjusted gross income (AGI) of $73,000 or less are eligible, but a company might set its own AGI standard. For example, TaxSlayer requires individuals to have an AGI of $60,000 or less to qualify.

Additionally, individuals with an AGI of over $73,000 are able to use IRS’ Free File Fillable Forms, which allow you to e-file your federal tax return for free. Note that if you have an AGI over $73,000, you will not receive tax assistance, and you will also need to file your state return separately.

» MORE: Current tax brackets

Free professional tax help

If you need help preparing and filing your taxes but don’t have the means to hire a professional tax preparer, you may qualify for free assistance from Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE).

Both programs are managed by the IRS and provide free basic tax return preparation help for taxpayers who need assistance in understanding and filing their returns as well as those who cannot afford paid tax preparation services.

VITA

This program is run by IRS-certified volunteers and provides free tax assistance to individuals with one of the following criteria:

  • Earn $60,000 or less
  • A senior citizen
  • A person with disabilities
  • A limited English speaker

You can locate these services through your local library, school or community center.

TCE

For individuals over 60, the TCE program offers free tax help and counseling. Usually, you can find TCE help at your local library or community center, or you can use IRS’s free area search.

“If you have your taxes professionally prepared, make sure the tax professional is licensed,” advised Dennis, from the tax and accounting firm. “Most governing bodies who regulate tax preparers require us to do security training to ensure we have the proper protocols in place, and additionally, we are required to undergo a background check.”

Software programs

TurboTax and TaxAct offer free live tax expert assistance if your return qualifies as a simple file.

Each company has its own set of requirements for simple filing, but usually, it is for taxpayers with simple income who use IRS standardized deductions versus individuals who earn income from side hustles or investments or do itemized deductions.

» MORE: About capital gains taxes

Free tax software for basic files

Several tax preparation software companies and programs offer free services for basic tax returns. These programs typically offer free federal and state tax filing for taxpayers with a simple tax situation, which generally includes individuals with uncomplicated income, deductions and credits.

Some examples of tax software companies and programs that offer free services for basic returns include:

TurboTax

For those with simple files (i.e., no tax deductions or complicated sources of income), you can choose between e-filing your taxes for free by yourself or using a tax expert for help. Additionally, child tax credits and student loan interest deductions can be covered, but if you have to report side income or investments, then you do not qualify.

H&R Block

H&R Block offers free basic files available for W-2 employees, students and those on unemployment with simple files. Some exclusions apply, and fees might be charged if your return is not considered a simple file.

TaxAct

TaxAct is clear about who does and does not qualify for its simple file program. The free filing also comes with free unlimited tax support.

TaxSlayer

TaxSlayer’s Simply Free includes free state and federal returns for basic 1040 returns. Its free program is also backed by a 100% accuracy guarantee.

Free filing for everyone

There are several software options available for individuals who want to file their taxes for free, regardless of their income or filing complexity. Here are some popular options:

1040.com

While 1040.com is not completely free, it does charge a flat-rate fee of $25 for everything at the time of publishing. This means if you have to include multiple states on your return, you won’t have to pay extra per state. Some other companies charge you additional fees for including more than one state.

FreeTaxUSA

File your federal for free with FreeTaxUSA and add your state tax return for an additional $14.99 at the time of publishing. You can choose to use FreeTaxUSA for federal taxes only and pay nothing out of pocket.

Free military tax returns

If you are on active duty, some companies will file your federal and state taxes for free, regardless of your income. Both TurboTax and TaxSlayer have specialized options for military individuals and families.

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    FAQ

    Can I get free audit support for filing my taxes?

    Some tax preparation software and services offer free audit support as part of packages. Free audit support typically means the tax preparation company or software will assist you in the event that you are audited by the IRS.

    Can I file my taxes for free as a student?

    Many tax software companies offer free options for students as long as they qualify under a simple file. This means that if you are a student with a few side sources of income, you might not qualify. However, most free basic files will also include your student loan interest deductions.

    Do I have to file taxes if I have no income?

    If you had no income for the tax year, you may not be required to file a federal income tax return. However, you may still want to file to claim certain tax credits. Since every tax situation is unique, it is best to consult a tax professional to determine if you need to file or not. If your income is low for the year, you will qualify for free tax help.

    Bottom line

    Filing taxes doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg, especially when there are plenty of resources available that offer free help regardless of income level or age group.

    If you are unsure whether you qualify for free tax help, search the IRS free tax help finder directly, or visit your local community center or library for more information.

    Article sources
    ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. Specific sources for this article include:
    1. IRS, " IRS Free File Online: Browse All Offers ." Accessed Feb. 27, 2023.
    2. Benefits.gov, “ Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) .” Accessed Feb. 27, 2023.
    3. IRS, “ Tax Counseling for the Elderly .” Accessed Feb. 27, 2023.
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