Everyone can prepare and e-file their federal tax returns for free using the IRS Free File Program. Free File is offered through a public-private partnership between the Internal Revenue Service and tax software companies. Free File can help you do your taxes fast; it’s safe and it doesn’t cost anything.
Free File offers two options: easy-to-use software or online fillable forms.
Free File software is for taxpayers who earn $57,000 or less
Nearly 100 million Americans—that’s 70 percent of the nation’s taxpayers—can use the free brand-name software and secure e-filing offered by private-sector companies. Software products also are available in Spanish. Each company sets its eligibility requirements, generally based on income, age or state residency. However, if your adjusted gross income was $57,000 or less in 2011, you will find at least one tax software product to use.
Here’s how it works: You must access Free File through the IRS website. At irs.gov/freefile, there’s an online tool which allows you to give a little information about yourself then guides you to the software for which you are eligible. Or, you can review a complete list of companies and their offerings and make a selection.
Once you select a software product, you will be directed away from the IRS website and onto that company’s website. There, the software will generally offer you a step-by-step guide through the tax preparation process.
Free File does all the hard work. You don’t need to be a tax expert; the software will help find tax breaks, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, that you may be due. The software asks the questions; you supply the answers. It will find the right tax forms and do the math. Free File has a high satisfaction rate among its users; 98 percent recommend it to others. The IRS issues refunds to 98 percent of electronic filers by direct deposit within 14 days, if there are no problems, and some may be issued in as few as 10 days.
A word about security: All Free File companies use the latest in secure technology. The safety of taxpayer information is everyone’s priority. Thirty-six million taxpayers have safely and securely used Free File since it started in 2003.
Some companies provide state tax return software—sometimes for free and sometimes for a fee. Some states also have a relationship with the Free File Alliance; those states are listed on the companies’ websites.
Free File Fillable Forms Is Another Free Option
For people who make more than $57,000 or who are comfortable preparing their own tax return, the IRS offers Free File Fillable Forms. It also must be accessed through irs.gov/freefile. There is no software assistance with Free File Fillable Forms, but it does basic math calculations for you. It does not support state income tax returns, but it is perfect for the true do-it-yourself taxpayer who prefers paper tax returns. Free File Fillable Forms also offers free e-filing.