Learn how to choose a free tax filing platform that’s easy to use, fits your device, tax reporting, and support needs, and is truly free.
Filing your taxes is no laughing matter. You know that if you make a mistake, you're going to regret it, so you want to make sure you get it right. You also want to file with minimal hassle and cost. We’ve reviewed many free tax filing platforms so that you’ll know what to look for when choosing such a service.
One That Supports Your Tax Situation
Before you start using a free tax filing platform, you’ll need to check whether it really fills your needs. Most of the free programs available are only appropriate for taxpayers who have simple tax returns or only need to complete form 1040EZ. If you need to itemize deductions like medical expenses, charitable donations, theft, and other losses and job expenses, check that the software is up to the job. H&R Block’s free edition permits users to file form 1040 Schedule A in order to itemize deductions.
Taxpayers with a more complicated tax reporting situation should go for a free platform that supports all schedules for form 1040, like FreeTaxUSA. Its list of supported tax return forms includes many less-common forms as well so you can itemize all deductions, report freelance income and earnings from investments, property, and even gambling wins. Mortgages, tax credits, and deductions for filing jointly are also supported.
A few tax filing platforms offer free filing for Form 1040EZ but permit users to upgrade for a small premium to file additional forms and schedules. TaxSlayer and TurboTax both support a full range of tax forms for self-employed, property and investment income reporting, and complete itemized deductions once you upgrade.
One That is Easy to Use
Any tool that speeds up your tax return is valuable. If you want a head start on completing your forms, look for a platform like TurboTax or TaxSlayer that begins completing your tax return for you by importing information from your W2. You can photograph or scan your W2 form and the platform will auto-populate fields with the correct data. As a final touch, once you finish your federal tax return, TurboTax will transfer your information over to your state tax return to give you a helping hand.
Another shortcut is offered by ESmartTax, which allows you to import your previous years’ tax returns from any other platform for free, so taxpayers whose circumstances haven’t changed much don’t have to start from scratch. 1040Now also quickly auto-populates the fields from your previous year’s tax return as long as you prepared it using its platform. 1040Now also helps you complete your state tax return by transferring information from your federal return.
If you find your tax documents confusing, you can take a shortcut thanks to the interview-style step-by-step questions on 1040Now or TaxSlayer. The tailored, guiding questions help you make sure that you don’t overlook any of the credits or refunds that you deserve and cut through the often-unhelpful IRS instructions.
One That has Good Customer Support
Let’s face it, it’s unusual to make it all the way through your tax return form without having a single question or uncertainty, so good customer support is vital. Unfortunately, while many tax filing platforms have great customer support, it’s frequently reserved for their paying users. You’ll want to look for one of the exceptions like EFile. Its professional ‘Taxperts’ are available to answer your questions via live chat 24/7, giving you access to professional advice no matter what time it is.
1040.com is more typical in reserving phone support for paying customers, but its email and live chat support are on offer to free users. Both are timely, US-based and bring quick responses, even though live chat is only open during regular working hours. 1040.com also promises to run your tax return through a number of verification rules to make sure that you haven’t made a mistake or left something out.
Both TurboTax and H&R Block invite free users to find answers in their searchable, professional knowledge forum. Users can ask questions and read through previous replies on hundreds of tax-return topics. TurboTax guides users by making it clear how each answer affects your bottom-line tax return amount, showing a little ‘Explain Why’ box to tell you what every tax return field is talking about. H&R Block similarly updates your refund in real time and explains the impact of every piece of information. This is useful for taxpayers who want to learn more about their tax return, but less so if you just need someone to tell you what line 9a means.
One That Has Cross-Device Functionality
We're all busy, so it's important to be able to complete your online tax return on your cellphone, tablet, and laptop, as well as your desktop. The IRS Free File software is provided by a number of different tax return providers, some of which have already been profiled here. Whether you're using an IRS Free File partner or the central IRS website itself, you can download an iOS or Android app for free to complete your tax return no matter where you are.
1040.com is also fully cross-device, with apps that enable you to complete your tax return and file it online from your laptop, tablet, or Android/ iOS smartphone. TaxSlayer is likewise extremely mobile friendly, with a fast response that makes it smooth to use on smartphone or tablet. H&R Block offers a free to download app that’s compatible with both Android and iOS operating systems. You can even use it together with their free or paid tax filing platforms to complete and file your tax returns from your smartphone or tablet while sitting in traffic on the bus.
One That is Truly Free
Free should mean free, but unfortunately, a lot of tax filing platforms are ‘free to start.” This means that after you’ve put in all the effort to complete your tax return, you’ll be stung by a fee to be permitted to download and file it. The IRS Free File tax return service is provided by 12 different platforms and is entirely free. You won’t have to pay anything to complete, check, or file your tax return. However, it is only available to users who meet certain age, income, and residency requirements. FreeTaxUSA also promises your federal tax return will always be free to file no matter which forms you need to include.
Many other tax return platforms offer free federal tax returns but charge for state tax returns. Residents of Iowa, Idaho, Massachusetts, Vermont, and North Dakota can file free state tax returns at FileYourTaxes.com, as long as they meet certain other restrictions. State tax returns are free for taxpayers who meet the requirements for H&R Block’s IRS Free File edition. Likewise, users of TurboTax’s Free File option who have an AGI of under $33,000 can file state tax returns for free. TaxSlayer is unusual in that it offers a free state tax return to residents of any state without restrictions, as long as it’s your first state tax return.
File Your Tax Return Online for Free
Whatever your personal financial situation, we hope that you’ve found this list of what to look for in a free tax filing platform useful. Based on the features listed above, you should now be able to choose the relevant service for your needs. So, go online now and find a free and easy way to file your tax return no matter how complicated it is or how confusing you usually find it, in order to get the headache out of the way and your tax refund on its way to you as quickly as possible.