How to File Taxes for Free: The Complete GuideTax Software
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Nobody likes to file taxes, but it’s something everyone has to do. If you are concerned about how to file taxes for free, the below lines are for you.
As if parting with our hard-earned cash wasn’t painful enough, none of us want to pay for the “privilege” of simply filing our taxes.
The good news is that if you meet certain conditions, you can file your taxes for free online! If you make less than $66,000 per year, you’re eligible to file your taxes for free using Free File software.
According to the IRS, this includes 70% of all tax payers in the US, so chances are you’re eligible.
If you make more than $66,000, don’t worry, you can still file your taxes for free via the Free File Fillable Forms from the IRS as well.
There is so much information about filing your taxes it can be confusing, but don’t worry, we have collected all the essential information you’ll need in order to file your taxes for free.
How to File Taxes for Free: Tax Deductions and Credits
Before you consider filing, it’s important to be aware of what tax deductions you’re eligible for.
There are hundreds of deductions and credits out there, with the right deductions you can save thousands on your tax assessment.
Below are resources and information about deductions that can help you save money.
Hurdlr can track income and expenses, not to mention give you tax deduction information on the fly.
The Hurdlr is custom-made to support small businesses and entrepreneurs to help save money.
The Hurdlr API helps track federal taxes, GST/HST, state and provincial taxes, local taxes in over 5,000 US municipalities, and self-employment taxes.
With tax information built-in, Hurdlr lets you see your before and after tax income at a glance,
so you know the state of your finances with no confusion.
Hurdlr lets you track every expense and deduction in real time, with auto-categorization features to save you time.
Tax estimates and reminders will make sure you’re never surprised when tax season arrives.
Hurdlr even lets you file taxes in-app, or send tax reports to your CPA.
Home Office Deduction
With 57 million Americans freelancing and taking part in the gig economy, more and more of us are working from home.
If you’re one of these millions of Americans, you may be delighted to learn that there is a tax credit for working out of your home.
If you use part of your home exclusively for the use of business, you may qualify for the Home Office Deduction.
This deduction is available to both homeowners and renters, and it applies to all types of homes.
There are two important conditions to be aware of when attempting to claim a Home Office Deduction: regular and exclusive use, and principal place of business.
Regular and exclusive use means that the space or room you’re claiming is used only for conducting business.
A room in your house used only as an office would qualify, while a common area like a living room or kitchen would not.
Principal place of business means your business is conducted from this location most of the time.
If you regularly work in an office, but your boss lets you work from home once a week, that does not count.
ETIC stands for Earned Income Tax Credit.
This is a tax benefit for working people with low to medium income.
To find out if you qualify, you can use the EITC assistant on the IRS’s website.
The key eligibility criteria for this credit include:
- You must be married filing jointly, head of household, widow or widower, or single. You will not be eligible if you are married filing separately
- Investment income must be less than $3,500 per year
- Must not file Form 2555, Foreign Earned Income or Form 2555-EZ, Foreign Earned Income Exclusion
- Your total earned income must be at least $1
- You do not exceed the Earned Income and AGI limits
Depending on your family situation, you can earn up to $6,431 with these credits.
It’s essential to understand that you will not automatically receive the EITC if you’re eligible, you must apply for it when you file your federal tax return!
Make sure you prepare all the necessary documentation before filing your tax return to make sure you can receive the EITC.
These documents include social security cards and social security numbers, copies of last year’s filings, all income statements, all records of expenses, bank account numbers and dependent care information.
If your EITC application was denied in a previous year, that doesn’t mean you can’t apply again this year. Just make sure you file the right forms with the IRS for this year’s tax filing.
Finally, there are a number of common errors which filers often make when applying for this credit, so make sure you know what they are and how to avoid them!
Being a student in 2019 is expensive enough, with tuition and living expenses skyrocketing year after year.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, students are still required to file and maybe even pay taxes.
Therefore, students will be especially thrilled to learn about the AOTC, a tax credit made specifically for them.
The American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) is a credit for education expenses paid by a higher education student during the first four years of their university study.
The maximum annual credit for eligible students is $2,500! This is no small change for a struggling student.
To be eligible for the AOTC, students must meet the following requirements:
- Be pursuing a degree or other recognized education credential
- Be enrolled at least half time for at least one academic period beginning in the tax year
- Not have finished the first four years of higher education at the beginning of the tax year
- Not have claimed the AOTC or the former Hope credit for more than four tax years
- Not have a felony drug conviction at the end of the tax year
There are several steps to claiming this credit.
- First, the student must obtaina Form 1098-T tuition statement from their institution. This applies to both domestic and foreign schools.
- Next, the student must file a Form 8863 with their federal tax return.
- It’s essential to ensure that you qualify for the credit and have all proper documentation before you apply.
- If you apply for this credit in error and receive it, and then are subsequently audited, you will be required to pay it back to the IRS with interest.
Child Tax Credit
As the name implies, the Child Tax Credit lets you claim credit for your dependent children.
This credit offers $2,000 per dependent child of the age of 16 or younger by the end of the calendar year.
If you have children this credit can have a huge impact on your assessment, and is not to be missed!
To qualify for this credit you must first make sure that your modified gross income is under the limit.
For married couples filing jointly the limit is $400,000, and for all other individuals, the limit is $200,000.
In addition to the income requirement, there are other specific eligibility requirements. These include:
- The child must your own child, foster child or stepchild, or be placed in your care by a court of law
- You must have provided at least half of the financial support of the child
- The child must be claimed as a dependent on your tax return
- The child must be a US citizen, US national or US resident alien
- The child must have lived with you for at least half the year which you are claiming. There are a number of exceptions which apply to this rule.
If your children meet these requirements: congratulations! You could be facing a huge credit to your upcoming tax assessment.
Another important thing to know is that the Child Tax Credit is non-refundable, which means that if this credit reduces your taxable assessment to zero, you won’t receive any cash back and the remaining credit is lost.
Now that you’ve figured out which deductions you may be eligible for, and collected all of the necessary documentation, you’re ready to file!
The IRS offers a wide variety of information and services on their website regarding how to file your taxes.
IRS Free File
The Free File section of the IRS website has information about how to file your taxes for free online.
You have two main choices when it comes to how to file your taxes: software or paper forms.
There are a number of excellent benefits associated with filing your taxes online using software.
First, it will definitely save you time, as electronic tax filings can be submitted directly to the IRS over the Internet, instead of waiting to for it to arrive via conventional post.
Second, you’ll get your money faster! When you file online and set up direct deposit, any tax refund you receive will go directly into your bank account, with no need to wait for a cheque in the mail.
Lastly, e-filing allows you to track the progress of your tax filing online, so you know exactly how it’s progressing and when you can expect to get that all-important refund cheque.
To get started you’ll need three things: an e-mail address, a copy your tax return from last year, and documents to prove your income and any deductions.
Validating Your Electronic Filing
In order to file your taxes for free online, you must sign and validate your electronic tax return by entering your prior-year Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) or your prior-year Self-Select PIN.
There a few different ways to find your prior year AGI. These include:
- On your 2017 tax return, your AGI is on line 37 of the Form 1040; line 21 on the Form 1040-A or line 4 on the Form 1040-EZ
- If you paid an individual or company to prepare your taxes preparer last year, you can contact them to obtain your AGI from that year
- If you are using the same tax preparation software that you used last year, that software should have your prior-year tax return information for you to access
- If you’re using a new tax preparation software, and the old software is still on your computer, the old software should still have an electronic record of your previous filing
- If you have been issued an Identity Protection (IP) PIN(via a CP01A), you should enter it when prompted by your software. It will serve to verify your identity
- If you are a first-time filer over the age of 16 enter zero as your AGI
If you can’t find your previous year’s AGI with any of the methods above, you can contact the IRS to request a transcript of your last filing. A transcript can be provided either electronically or by mail, but you will need to verify your identity with your social security number, date of birth, and other proofs of your identity.
More information can be found on the IRS’ website.
Free File Software
Now you’ve got everything in order: You make under $66,000 per year, you have last year’s filing, you have an e-mail address, you have your earnings and deduction documentation, and you can validate your electronic filing.
You’re ready to file your taxes for free online!
Your next step is to choose which IRS approved Free Filing Software you want to use.
There are actually many options to choose from, and the huge variety may be confusing.
Depending on your age, Adjusted Gross Income and which state you live in will also affect which software you can use.
But don’t worry, we will explain each one to help you decide which is best for you.
H&R Block’s Free File
Unless you been living under a rock, you’ve definitely heard of H&R Block, as they’re without a doubt one of the largest tax services companies in the world.
H&R Block was founded in 1955, and since then has processed over 720 million tax returns, so you can trust that they know what they’re doing with your tax return.
To be eligible for H&R Block’s Free File, you must meet the following conditions:
- Your Adjusted Gross Income is $66,000 or less, AND your age is between 17 and 51, OR
- You are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit, OR
- Free for Active Military for Adjusted Gross Income of $66,000 or less
If you meet those conditions, you can sign up through their website to file your taxes online for free.
H&R Block’s Free File has several great features which will make your free online tax return as simple as possible.
Their software has a W-2 photo capture feature, which will automatically scan all the info from your W-2 off a photo. This will certainly help save you time.
H&R Block’s software is also compatible with returns from many of the leading tax preparation applications such as TurboTax, TaxAct, Credit Karma and many more.
You can import your information directly from these other apps into your H&R Block account by dragging and dropping their return.
H&R Block’s Free file has step-by-step guidance, making the process simple and fool-proof.
The software also has a special feature called Refund Reveal ™ which shows your refund going up or down in real time as you fill in your return.
With H&R Block’s additional guarantees such as their Maximum Refund Guarantee, Audit Support Guarantee and 100% Accuracy Guarantee, you can rest easy knowing that your tax return is safe and accurate
Free Tax Returns is a simple and straightforward service to file your taxes for free online that may be the idea choice for you, if you meet certain conditions.
You can file with Free Tax Returns if:
- You are age 70 or younger, and
- Your Adjusted Gross Income is $66,000 or less, and
- You live in any state except DC, FL, IN, NH, NM, SD, TX, or WA
Alternatively, any active or reserve military can file with Free Tax Returns if their Adjusted Gross Income is $66,000 or less.
Free Tax Returns has processed thousands of tax returns, offering expert customer support and guaranteed security.
Free Tax Returns will allow you to e-file electronically, saving time and money.
Moreover, Free Tax Returns has a 100% accuracy guarantee, promising to pay for any interest charges or penalties due to inaccurate calculations
They also use SSL encryption in conjunction with physical backup stores to ensure that your information is protected.
Finally, if you qualify for a free federal tax return, Free Tax Returns can also provide a free state tax return if you live in AZ, CA, CO, CT, GA, IA, ID, IL, KS, MA, MN, NC, ND, NJ, OH, OK, PA, SC, UT, VA, or WA.
File Your Taxes is another great choice for filing your taxes for free online.
The eligibility requirements for File Your Taxes are simple:
- You are age 65 or younger, and
- Your Adjusted Gross Income is $9000 – $66,000 , or
- You were Active Duty (including reserve) in the armed forces and Adjusted Gross
- Income is under $ 66,000.
File Your Taxes is a member of the Free File Alliance, Inc., an organization formed in conjunction with the IRS to provide free e-filing solutions for Americans.
File Your Taxes also has an accuracy guarantee, which ensures they will pay any penalties which could arise from miscalculation.
However, it’s important to understand that while this guarantee does cover fees, it will not include any differences in total tax assessment. That’s still up to you!
File Your Taxes uses a well-developed, automated e-mail system to keep you updated on your tax return every step of the way.
Automated customer service is available to all customers, a system which can read email enquiries and respond to commonly asked questions instantly. This service is provided free of charge.
File Your Taxes does not lease, purchase or acquire any part of their tax software from another company.
They are 100% independent, and ensure that virtually any computer with a web browser and internet connection can use their service.
They are a certified participant of the TrustGuard® Privacy Program and their site is secured by a Godaddy® SSL certificate, so you can rest easy knowing your data is safe.FreeTaxUSA IRS Free File Edition
Founded in 2001 by a CPA and a team of professional software developers, Free Tax USA is one of the oldest and most trusted e-filing sites.
They hold an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau, and they are one of the original members of the Free File Alliance, so these folks know what they’re doing when it comes to handling your free online tax return.
Free Tax USA caters to individuals and families with a lower AGI than their competitors.
The eligibility requirements for Free Tax USA are as follows:
- Your AGI was $35,000 or less in 2018, or
- You qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit, or
- You were Active Duty Military
Free Tax USA is a 100% American owned and operated business. All employees live and work in the United States, so you can feel good knowing you’re supporting American families.
They also guarantee the safety of your data, with all information encrypted and transmitted via secure SSL encryption.
Moreover, Free Tax USA uses Truste, DigiCert, and Security Metrics security services, so you can have no doubt that your information will be kept safe.
1040Now is an authorized IRS e-file provider that promises customers a guided and hassle-free experience filing their taxes for free online.
To file with 1040Now, you must meet the following requirements:
- If your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) is $66,000 or less and you live in one of the following states: AL, AR, AZ, CA, GA, IA, ID, IN, KY, MI, MN, MO, MS, NC, ND, NY, OK, OR, RI, SC, VA, VT or WV, or
- Your AGI is $66,000 or less and you are 60 or younger and you live in one of the following states: CO, CT, DC, DE, HI, IL, KS, LA, MA, MD, ME, MT, NE, NJ, NM, OH, PA, UT or WI.
To qualify for their free file offer, you must follow an authorized link, so be sure to follow the link on the IRS Free File website.
1040Now also offers state filings for the states of AL, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, GA, HI, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT, NC, ND, NE, NJ, NM, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, UT, VA, VT, WI, WV, even if you have filed your federal tax return with another company.
OnLine Taxes or OLT.com is an authorized IRS e-file provider that has been around since 2007.
OnLine Taxes boasts that they have filed millions of tax returns to date and serve hundreds of thousands of customers each tax season.
To qualify for a free online tax return from OnLine Taxes, you need to meet the following conditions:
- Adjusted Gross Income is between $14,000 and $66,000
- Active Duty Military Adjusted Gross Income $66,000 or under
- OnLine Taxes is available to residents of all US states and of all ages, making it an appealing choice for many Americans.
- OnLine Taxes offers free customer service, 7-days a week via email during the tax season, so users can feel good knowing there is always someone available to respond to their questions.
- Their website also features a comprehensive knowledge database and customer FAQ, ensuring you can find the solution to any problem you might face while filing your taxes for free online.
- Like many e-file providers, OnLine Taxes has a 100% accuracy guarantee promising to pay for any for any penalties and interest charges, whether or not the error is theirs.
- OnLine Taxes is a Better Business Bureau accredited business and secured by Verisign®, so filers can trust their information with OnLine Taxes.
ezTaxReturn has been around since 1999, making them one of the more well-established e-file providers around.
Over the past 20 years ezTaxReturn has helped millions of Americans to file their taxes for free online.
What’s more, unlike some of the competitors, ezTaxReturn vows to never sell your personal information to third parties, so privacy-minded individuals can be rest assured that their personal information remains that way: personal.
There are two eligibility requirements for filing with ezTaxReturn:
- Your Adjusted Gross Income is $66,000 or less, and
- You live in AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, GA, IL, LA, MA, MD, MI, MO, MS, NJ, NY, NC, OH, PA, SC, VA or WI
ezTaxReturn boasts robust customer service, offering users a comprehensive knowledge bank and Secure eMail to ask questions.
What puts them ahead of their competition is that they also offer free phone US phone support, a rarity among e-file providers!
ezTaxReturn claims that filing your taxes for free online with their software takes only 30 minutes, saving you time to dedicate to the more important things in your life.
What’s more, their platform has a special feature called ezExplanations, which defines complicated or confusing IRS terms in-app, helping you understand which deductions you’re most qualified for.
With their step-by-step procedure and user-friendly interface, many customers find ezTaxReturn to be a straightforward and simple e-filing solution.
TaxAct Free File Edition
Founded in 1998, TaxAct is another one of the more long-standing tax services companies.
Check the following requirements to see if you quality for TaxAct free filing:
- Your adjusted gross income is $55,000 or less, and
- You are 56 years old or younger, or
- You are eligible for the EITC, or
- You are active military and your adjusted gross income is $66,000 or less
A unique benefit of TaxAct is their Maximum Refund Guarantee, which means they promise to earn you the maximum refund on your filing under applicable law. If there is a mistake, they will pay you the difference up to $100,000!
They also offer an Accuracy Guarantee, ensuring coverage of up to $100,000 for any penalties or interest charges accrued from an error in their software.
Another great feature of TaxAct is their Deduction Maximizer, a built in-feature of their software which helps users identify the best deductions applicable to their work.
With these features, it’s no doubt that TaxAct is one of the most attractive choices to file your taxes for free online.
1040.com Free File Edition
1040.com offers users a straightforward and hassle-free way to file their taxes online for free, provided that you meet their eligibility requirements.
In order to file with 1040.com, you must meet the following criteria:
- You are age 52 or younger, and
- You have adjusted gross income (AGI) of $60,000 or less, or
- You are eligible for the Earned Income Credit, or
- You are active military with AGI of $66,000 or less
One unique feature of 1040.com’s software is that it uses a convenient and easy Interview-Style Filing system.
Just fill in a few simple and easy to understand questions, and the software will take care of the rest.
Another terrific feature of 1040.com’s platform is that they will retain your customer data year-to-year.
That means if you filed with them last year, their platform will automatically fill in your information for this year, saving your precious time!
The 1040 platform applies hundreds of verifications rules and checks to your filing, ensuring that all your data is 100% correct so you don’t have to worry.
If you sign up for direct deposit in conjunction, 1040.com promises to get your refund back to you ASAP. What’s more, they’re give you e-mail updates every step of the way.
In addition to e-mail support, 1040.com also offers a live chat customer support, meaning you can talk to an actual person in real time.
TaxSlayer is derived from a family-owned with 50 years of experience in the tax preparation business.
Their software has been used by millions of users since their establishment in 1998, so you can definitely trust TaxSlayer to handle your free online tax return.
In order to use TaxSlayer, you need to meet the following criteria:
- Citizens and/or Resident Aliens with an Adjusted Gross Income $66,000 or less, and
- Age 50 or younger
If you meet those simple requirements, TaxSlayer may be the best choice for you.
TaxSlayer has a Maximum Return Guarantee, promising that you will get the maximum refund allowed by law, or else they will refund any payments made to them.
What’s more, TaxSlayer also 100% Accuracy Guarantee, in which they will refund any federal and/or state penalties or surcharges due to any inaccurate accounting from their software.
Another great feature of TaxSlayer’s software is the deduction finder, which can help you to save huge amounts of money simply by answering a few easy questions.
TaxSlayer’s software boasts a state-of-the-art error checker that will screen for any potential errors or inaccuracies that might trip up your free online tax return.
With a detailed knowledge base and e-mail support, TaxSlayer offers excellent customer feedback and assistance to their clients.
TurboTax Free File Program
TurboTax is one of the biggest names in tax preparation software, having successfully sold their tax software on store shelves for decades.
You can take advantage of their years of experience to file your taxes for free online, provided that you meet their few simple requirements:
- Your AGI is $34,000 or less, or
- You are Active Military duty with a family income of $66,000 or less, or
- You qualify for the EITC
TurboTax guarantees you will receive the fastest tax refund possible, claiming that 9 out of every 10 taxpayers receive their refund within 21 days.
Being a huge company, you can also benefit from their comprehensive customer support network.
They offer free, U.S.-based phone support for all of their clients, so you will have no trouble finding someone to help you should the need arise.
TurboTax software makes filing super easy, with no math required. Simply answer a few easy questions and the software fills in the information for you.
They also support photo capture of your W-2, letting you easily upload your information via a phone or tablet.
TurboTax automatically searches for over 350 possible deductions, making sure you get each and every deduction you’re eligible for.
With their Maximum Refund Guarantee, users can count on getting the biggest possible refund. If you get a larger or smaller refund from a different source, they will refund any costs paid for their software.
For free users, you are entitled to a payment of $14.99 if you find a bigger refund anywhere else.
TurboTax also offers free, year-round audit support in the unlikely, yet extremely troublesome, event that you find yourself facing an IRS audit.
This includes free one-on-one guidance from an accredited tax profession, free answers to questions year-round and free assistance on audit preparation.
Free File Fillable Forms
If your Gross Domestic Income is over $66,000, unfortunately, you’re not eligible to file your taxes for free online using Free File Software, but you do have another option: Free File Fillable Forms.
Free File Fillable Forms are simple digital copies of paper IRS forms, but they can be filled out online and submitted electronically directly to the IRS.
So long as your computer meets the minimum requirements, you can file your taxes for free using these forms.
It may not be as convenient as software, but it is still free and filed electronically, saving you time and money.
Investing Your Tax Return
We all know investing is important, but unless we went to business school, most of us have no idea where to start.
A hefty tax return is a great windfall, but don’t consider it as simply extra cash, think about it as an investment opportunity.
Instead of spending it straight away, consider putting that money to work for you. The following are two great ways to make the most of your cash and grow your wealth.
If you don’t have an investment portfolio, there is not better time to start than with your new income tax refund.
Betterment is a offers comprehensive financial planning and investing resource, to help you plan for your future and make the most of your money.
Real-estate investment is a cornerstone of any well-balanced portfolio, and Fundrise is the perfect way to diversify your portfolio and maximize your earnings.
Fundrise gives you access to hundreds of exciting real-estate investment opportunities in the private market.
With 8.7 – 12.4% historical annual returns, Fundrise is the best way to add real-estate to your investment portfolio.
It’s never too late to start saving for your retirement.
Bloom 401k lets you link your current retirement account, and then Bloom does all the hard work, finding the best investments and most ideal allocations for your money
Bloom will assess your current vs. ideal allocation, diversification and fees, all for free!
Bloom can help you to invest in the funds with the lowest fees, to protect your hard-earned money and help grow your wealth.
Logan is a practicing CPA, Certified Student Loan Professional, and founder of Money Done Right, which he launched in July 2017. After spending nearly a decade in the corporate world helping big businesses save money, he launched his blog with the goal of helping everyday Americans earn, save, and invest more money. Learn more about Logan.