How to File Your Tax Returns for Free

Every year tax season rolls around! If you aren’t a do-it-yourselfer, you may be concerned about the cost of hiring an accountant or tax service. But did you know… there are several ways to file your tax returns for free? Here’s a brief overview.

Options to File Your Taxes for Free

Free File

The Free File program is a public-private partnership between the IRS and established businesses like TurboTax and H&R Block. Select commercial companies offer free use of their tax preparation and filing software to individuals with an income below $72,000. However, keep in mind, rules vary by provider and by state. To make sure you don’t accidentally switch into a paid product, work directly from the IRS Free File Online Options page.

4F: Free File Fillable Forms

If your income is above $72,000, the IRS has Free File Fillable Forms. This tool is the electronic equivalent of filling out a paper tax return. Whereas tax software guides you through the process, you must be somewhat tax-savvy to navigate Free File Fillable Forms. This option is best for people who know what they are doing and/or have simple returns.

Free Tax Filing Software

Most tax preparation companies provide a free version of their software outside of the Free File program. Again, this works best for simple returns. For example, you’ll probably need to upgrade to a paid package for more complicated situations like owning your own business. Credit Karma Tax offers free tax filing without restrictions, but in exchange, the company collects your data for marketing purposes. If you’d like to compare various products, check out Nerd Wallet’s Best Tax Software of 2021 review.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)

The government also runs in-person help through two volunteer-staffed programs. The first, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA), is for taxpayers with an annual income of less than $56,000. Volunteers are IRS-certified, and many locations offer services in multiple languages. Use the VITA/TCE Locator Tool to find a site near you.

Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE)

The second in-person program, Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) is for anyone over the age of 60. TCE has no income limits. Plus, its volunteers are specially trained to focus on tax issues impacting seniors. You can use the AARP Tax-Aide Site Locator Tool or VITA/TCE Locator Tool to find a location near you.


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