You may be surprised to learn that everyone can file their federal tax returns for free, using either a software program or online fillable forms offered through the IRS Free File program. Whether or not you are eligible for the software depends on your income level, but even if you don’t qualify for the free software, you can fill out your tax forms online for free, and file your federal tax return via e-file for free.
Which method of free federal income tax filing should you use?
Use Free File Fillable Forms
If you earn more than $58,000 annually or prefer to prepare your own tax return, you should use the free file fillable forms located on the IRS website.
You will need to have some knowledge of tax preparation for using the forms – it’s the same as if you were to fill out the paper forms on your own, except you can do it on your computer. There is no software support or guidance to fill out the free file fillable forms. The forms will do basic math calculations for you.
The fillable forms are available for federal income tax filing only, which means you will still need to prepare and file your state tax return separately. Once your forms are completed, you can use the free federal e-file service to submit your federal tax return.
Use Free File Software
If you’re among nearly 70% of United States taxpayers who earn under $58,000 a year, you can prepare and file your federal income taxes with free file software. Some of the free software programs are available in Spanish, too. The software is offered through various tax-preparation companies and can set their own eligibility requirements. You will need to view a list of all available software programs to see if you are eligible; or use an online tool offered by the IRS to locate a software program you are eligible to use: https://www.irs.gov/filing/free-file-do-your-federal-taxes-for-free. BackTaxesHelp.com recommends using the free version of turbo tax because of the ease of use and the long-standing company history as a leader in online tax filings. Read the full Turbo Tax review.
Tax preparation software is a step-by-step method for preparing and filing your federal income tax return. It will ask you questions about your income and situation to determine what taxes you owe or amount of your refund. It’s ideal whether you have intense knowledge of tax preparation – but since the software does all of the hard work, you can’t use it even if you don’t know how to prepare your federal income taxes. The software is designed to help find any deductions you qualify for, simply by asking you questions. As you answer the questions and input data, the software enters your information into the appropriate tax forms you need to file and calculates your taxes owed or refund.
If you choose direct deposit for receiving a federal income tax refund and use the IRS e-file to submit your completed return, you can expect a refund in as few as 10 days.
Some of the free software will include the ability to file your state taxes, too. Not all state taxes can be filed with this system, and not all states that participate will allow you to file for free.