When it comes to filing your taxes, there are a lot of free options. A number of leading tax software providers provide free e-filing options via the IRS’ free file program which provides free federal income tax preparation and electronic filing for eligible taxpayers.
Free Tax Filing via Electronic Software is only really free for those who file via approved providers of tax software and meet certain income based restrictions. Most tax software provides guidance through the filing process via asking simple questions and putting your answers on the right forms. If does all the math and checks for accuracy. You normally get your refund within 10 days. The following well-known companies (always go with established companies for your taxes!) support the IRS free file e-filing option, but if you want more sophisticated help or have a higher AGI then you nay have to pay for filing the return (due to the extra guidance/forms you receive).
TurboTax Free Edition: You get free federal online tax return preparation and e-file if your adjusted gross income is $31,000 or less or if you are active military with an AGI of $57,000. Turbo tax is the most used tax software and in the years that I have used it, I found it very easy to use thanks to it’s excellent step-by-step program to guide you through filling in your tax return. Like any commercial package though, they will try to “up-sell ” you, so make sure you check the options you really need. Overall, this is the best option for most online tax filers in my opinion.
H&R Block Online Free Edition: Free federal online tax return preparation and e-file if your adjusted gross income is $57,000 or less and you are age 51 or younger. HR Block has the highest AGI income limit for free filing and a decent step-by-step guide for users, though not as user friendly and intuitive as the above two options. You can also import last year’s tax data from Turbo Tax and certain other software packages.
Manual Free File Fillable Forms – Unlike the above software options which have an income eligibility to file a free return, if you go with the manual option there won’t be any income limitations. You will need to manually fill in the paper tax forms, check/validate your own numbers and file them online without tax software. That is. you choose, self-prepare, and e-file your 1040, 1040 A and/or 1040EZ return.
While filing your tax returns for free is a great option for those with lower incomes and simpler tax situations, what you are really paying the tax software providers is for the online assistance guiding you through the process for figuring your taxes and getting the largest refund possible. Given the premium advice and tips you can get from most tax software, the cost of the additional options is more than offset by the larger refund you will likely get.
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