Filing taxes can be confusing and stressful. Thankfully, there are IRS-approved free file services that offer free tax preparation and filing aimed at low and middle income taxpayers. With open tax season coming up in 2024, now is the time to research your options to save money and maximize tax refunds.
Benefits of Free Tax Filing Services
Free file services provide numerous advantages over paid tax preparers:
- Save on tax prep fees that can range from $150-$500.
- Prevent errors that occur in 19% of returns done by paid preparers.
- Receive larger refunds by properly claiming all eligible deductions and credits.
- Convenient e-filing directly with the IRS.
- Access tax help by contacting provider’s customer support.
However, free services do come with eligibility requirements and limitations on more complex tax situations.
The Best Free IRS-Approved Tax Filing Services of 2024
The IRS partners with several tax software providers to offer free file services based on age, income, state residency and military status.
Here are the top 5 free file services for 2024:
1. IRS Free File Fillable Forms
The IRS Free File Fillable Forms is the only entirely free tax preparation and electronic filing option available to all taxpayers, with no income limitations or eligibility requirements.
It is best for tech-savvy taxpayers comfortable navigating tax forms and instructions. However, it does not include a step-by-step interview process or offer much guidance, so has a steeper learning curve.
2. TurboTax Free Edition
The TurboTax Free Edition is free for simple federal returns only and is best for W-2 employees without itemized deductions or self-employment income.
It provides a user-friendly interview process and e-filing. But there are income eligibility limits, and state returns start at $39.99.
3. H&R Block Free Online
The H&R Block Free Online tax filing service also offers free federal 1040 returns for W-2 employees, with options to file a free state return.
It is best for simple tax situations under certain income thresholds. Additional fees apply for self-employment or investments.
4. TaxSlayer Military Free Edition
The TaxSlayer Military Free Edition offers a full-service free federal and state filing aimed at active duty military members.
It handles more complex returns like self-employment income but is restricted to Armed Forces members with adjusted gross incomes below $73,000.
5. Credit Karma Tax
Credit Karma Tax provides free federal and state tax filing for all taxpayers, no matter the income.
It even supports self-employment situations. However, it has limited audit support and phone assistance, relying more on user forums.
Downsides to Free Tax Filing
While free file services provide substantial savings, recognize their limitations:
- Narrow eligibility requiring specific criteria to be met.
- Lack of support for complex tax situations like rental property or stock options.
- Upcharges for added state returns and schedules.
- Minimal audit assistance if issues arise with the IRS.
For taxpayers above income thresholds or with intricate taxes, working with a paid CPA may be more suitable.
Accessing Free Tax Help
If eligible for a free file service, taxpayers can access them directly through the IRS Free File portal.
Those who do not qualify or have additional questions can also utilize the following free tax help resources:
- IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program for in-person tax prep help.
- AARP Foundation Tax-Aide for free assistance aimed at taxpayers 50 or older.
- MilTax, a Department of Defense-sponsored tax service for military members.
As the 2024 tax season approaches, be sure to research free filing options to get your maximum refund quickly and affordably. With the right free file provider, you can save time, money and hassle during this demanding yearly task.