This story is part of , CNET’s coverage of the best tax software and everything else you need to get your return filed quickly, accurately and on-time.
This year’s tax deadline looms large on the calendar: There are no postponements for the, and . The IRS and tax experts strongly suggest filing early and to receive your tax refund as quickly as possible.
If the potential cost of tax preparation oris what’s causing you to procrastinate, open your eyes to the internet’s bounty. There are several ways to file your taxes for free or get the help you need if you require assistance.
Be aware that commercial tax offerings may lure you in with free tax software products and then try to upsell you higher tiers of service or functionality. Before selecting any “free” tax-prep service and starting your tax return, make sure your tax situation won’t require you to upgrade to a paid product.
Read on to learn about the best ways to file your taxes for free, including official services from the IRS and top-notch free software from commercial publishers.
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IRS Free File and Free File Fillable Forms
The IRS partners with tax companies to provide its Free File Program, which offers free tax software to Americans whose adjusted gross income (AGI) is $73,000 or less. If you meet the AGI requirement, you can select one of eight commercial software programs (including TaxAct and TaxSlayer, which are on our list of best tax software for 2022) to guide you through filing a federal tax return.
The catch? Not all state returns are free. Each offer specifically lists which states are included in its Free File product; be sure to carefully review each product’s state list before choosing.
If your AGI is greater than $73,000, you can file for free with the IRS using its Free File Fillable Forms, but they don’t include free state return options and there’s no guided assistance. You’ll need to manually check the math, and you can’t make changes once your return is accepted.
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance or Tax Counseling for the Elderly
The IRS also offers free tax-preparation services for those most in need: The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program helps filers who make less than $57,000, those with disabilities or those who speak limited English. The volunteers are IRS-certified and supply basic income tax return prep.
Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) assists those who are 60 and older with specific advice on retirement-related concerns. Even those who are still working but nearing retirement might benefit from TCE services.
To find a VITA or TCE site near you, use the VITA/TCE Locator Tool or call 800-906-9887.
Debuting for the first time in 2022, Cash App Taxes (formerly Credit Karma Tax) allows you to file for free — even if you’re self employed — and we consider it the best free tax product available right now.
Cash App doesn’t offer as much support as some professional software and doesn’t include the ability to upload 1099 income forms, but if you don’t need much hand-holding or have a simple return, it’s a great option for filing a tax return for free.
Longtime in-person tax preparer H&R Block also offers a way to file your taxes for free online. H&R Block’s Free Online product includes a federal tax return and one state return, all for no cost. However, it leaves out gig workers and freelancers as there’s no support for 1099-NEC or 1099-MISC forms.
H&R Block Free Online does let you easily import tax documents from last year and includes a robust help center and online technical support. It offers access to a few tax deductions and credits, including the earned income tax credit, child tax credit and educational expenses.
However, if you want to report income from stock sales, deduct business or child care expenses or claim deductions like mortgage interest, you’ll need another tax solution. The full list of IRS forms supported by Free Online can be found in this PDF list from H&R Block.
File your federal and state taxes for free with TaxAct Free. You can import your filings from TurboTax, H&R Block or import last year’s TaxAct return at no extra charge.
After you file a federal return, your details are autocompleted in your state return and, as with H&R Block, you’ll be able to see your estimated refund in real-time. However, TaxAct does not include a free state tax return; that will cost you $40.
Read the list of state and federal forms TaxAct offers for free (click on “forms”) before deciding if TaxAct Free will work for you.
Like with most commercial software, you’ll need a simple return to qualify for free tax filing with TaxSlayer. Its Simply Free tier lets you prepare, file and print your federal return — and get one free state return at no extra cost.
TaxSlayer has live chat, email and phone support for when you need extra help. Unfortunately, TaxSlayer Simply Free has some strict limitations: You can’t claim the child tax credit or earned income tax credit, nor can your adjusted gross income (AGI) be greater than $100,000. Peruse the full list of requirements for TaxSlayer Simply Free to help guide your decision.
Methodology: How we select the best free tax software
CNET reviews tax software by comparing products across a set criteria. We use the software to prepare personal tax returns, examine tax products’ terms and offers, communicate with software representatives to resolve questions about products, compare feature sets and analyze each software for its effectiveness in common tax situations.
We consider the features and functionality of the tax preparation software, the user experience, the software interface, website performance, quality of help and support, and the value based on price. We are also looking for and evaluating specific features, including file importing or photo capture of forms, number and type of available IRS forms and schedules, contextual help, desktop and phone/tablet compatibility and syncing, professional tax assistance, maximum refund and accuracy guarantees, live support and security protections.
Specifically for best free tax software, we consider the limitations and restrictions of the free services offered, unique features for each service, functionality related to low-income tax filers, in-person support and assistance, and whether or not a free state tax return is included with the free federal return.
The editorial content on this page is based solely on objective, independent assessments by our writers and is not influenced by advertising or partnerships. It has not been provided or commissioned by any third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.