How to file your taxes for free

Tax software can alert you to money-saving tax deductions and credits, help you avoid costly mistakes, and file your tax returns electronically, reducing the wait for your refund. But depending on the complexity of your return, tax software can cost you $100 or more. Before you shell out any cash, though, find out if you can file your federal tax return — and in some cases, your state tax return, too — for free.

If you had an adjusted gross income of $73,000 or less in 2021, you can prepare and file your federal tax return for free through IRS Free File, even if your return is complex. Each Free File participant is authorized to impose their own criteria. To find a program, go to IRS Free File Online Options Webpage.

If you don’t qualify for the IRS Free File but have a fairly straightforward return, consider Free Fillable Forms. This program allows you to complete your tax return electronically and file it electronically or print and mail it. The program will do the math, but offers no guidance or advice. The forms to be completed free of charge are also on the IRS website.

Some tax software providers also offer free programs, but make sure you qualify before you start plugging in your numbers. For example, you can use TurboTax Free edition if you had wages from a job (W-2 income) and limited interest and dividend income, but received unemployment benefits or had a health savings account, you must upgrade to TurboTax Deluxe ($39 at press time for a federal tax return). H&R Block’s The free online version allows users to report unemployment income, but if you had a health savings account last year, you should upgrade to H&R Block Deluxe ($29.99 at press time for reporting federal revenue).

FreeTaxUSA will prepare even complex federal income tax returns for free. The company makes money by charging to file your state tax return, but the cost is reasonable – $14.99 for each state tax return.

karma credit tax, which offered free federal and state tax programs, was acquired by Square, a fintech company that developed Cash App, a mobile payment service, in late 2020. The program is still free, but you will be asked early on if you want to sync your Tax and Cash App data. The company earns money by recommending affiliate products. You can refuse this request to share information.

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