Free E-File for Federal Taxes
As if paying taxes isn’t bad enough, having to pay just to complete and file your taxes is a real pain. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could file your taxes for free? The good news is in many cases, you can. That’s right, you could qualify to complete and file your taxes absolutely free. So, let’s go over how you can complete your taxes for free, and if you qualify, even use an e-file option absolutely free.
Doing Your Taxes by Hand
If you like numbers and doing calculations, one of the obvious options is to do your taxes by hand. All of the available tax forms are available for download right from the IRS website, and your local post office should have some of the most common forms and instruction booklets sitting in the lobby.
There are no limitations as to who can complete and file their taxes this way. From the easiest returns to complex self-employment returns, if you have the time and energy to fill out the forms on your own, more power to you. Your only cost by doing it this way is the mailing of the return. Most experts recommend you mail your taxes via Certified Mail. With Certified Mail you can be sure your article arrived at its destination with access to online delivery information. When you use Certified Mail, you receive a receipt stamped with the date of mailing. A unique article number allows you to verify delivery online. As an additional security feature, the recipient’s signature is obtained at the time of delivery and a record is maintained by the post office. This helps protect you in the event an issue arises and the IRS claims your return never arrived. Certified Mail starts at $2.70.
If you want to go one step further and eliminate the postage, the IRS now has online forms that you can use to enter your information and e-file for free. Again, you’re pretty much on your own in terms of selecting the correct forms, tracking down all of the eligible deductions and so on, but at least it’s free. There’s also no income limitations to use this service.
If your adjusted gross income is less than $57,000, you could be entitled to use the Free File program offered by the IRS in partnership with certain software vendors. You can find more information about Free File on the IRS website.
Getting Help With Your Tax Return
Most people cringe at the thought of doing their taxes by hand, and that’s understandable. But how can you get assistance with your return, and possibly even file your return electronically at no cost? Well, there are a few different options out there that you might be able to take advantage of. Here are the two most popular free tax preparation software options.
H&R Block at Home for Free
H&R Block at Home software has been one of my favorites for the past few years. I’ve used the online version and it’s easy to use and has found a few good deductions that I may have otherwise overlooked. This year, H&R Block has a free online option that not only allows you to complete your taxes for free with their online software, but it includes free federal e-file! File for FREE with H&R Block Online Free Edition.
The free online filing edition is perfect for those with simple tax situations. It’s great for students, individuals and couples that aren’t self-employed, and those who don’t need to itemize deductions. The simple interview process will walk you through your taxes with some basic questions, and you typically just enter the numbers found on the tax forms you receive in the mail. You can then instantly submit your federal taxes for free via e-file. Keep in mind that if you need to complete a state tax return, you’ll have to purchase that or go through with completing that return by hand.
If your tax situation isn’t that simple and you have a business or need to itemize deductions, don’t worry. H&R Block at Home still has some fantastic offers available. They offer a number of software options from a basic return for 1040EZ filers all the way to the Home and Business edition. All of these also come with free e-file, and all purchased versions now get free live audit support. In the past, consumers who e-filed with H&R Block have always had the comfort of a trained tax professional behind them in the event of an audit. Now, this advantage is available even if the return is printed and mailed in to the IRS. Find the version of H&R Block at Home that’s right for you.
Intuit’s TurboTax for Free
Just like with H&R Block,TurboTax also has a free tax preparation and e-file solution. Again, this is geared towards those with relatively simple tax situations, but if you fit the bill, you can’t go wrong with professional software and e-file for free.
In addition, TurboTax is also extending it’s free audit and online support for free with all online versions. So if you have a question, you can easily get the answer. Even worse, if you get audited, TurboTax will be there to help. You’re also covered in the event of a mistake. If there is an incorrect calculation in the software that requires you to pay interest or penalties, TurboTax will cover the cost.
If you need something a little more robust than the 1040EZ free online option, TurboTax also offers a wide selection of tax software to fulfil your needs. In addition to doing your taxes online, you also have the opportunity to download or receive a CD for software you can install on your computer. Find the version of TurboTax that’s right for you.
Making the Tax Deadline
It doesn’t matter how you file your taxes, you still have to file before the tax deadline. Also, keep in mind that if you owe the IRS money it’s still due by the tax deadline even if you file an extension, so penalties or interest may apply. So, get started on those taxes as soon as possible!
Author: Jeremy Vohwinkle
My name is Jeremy Vohwinkle, and I’ve spent a number of years working in the finance industry providing financial advice to regular investors and those participating in employer-sponsored retirement plans.
I'm going to definitely give the home filing a try this year. I ran into some problems with the IRS's free tool because at the time I filed (years ago) I had been working over seas. The problem arose around the standard form 2555, which may or may not have been outdated. I ended up owing like $2000.00 USD by the online form's definition. When I took the same paperwork to H&R Block, I ended up receiving about $200 back (smile). I'm wondering if their online version is better than the IRS so I'll give it a shot. Thanks for sharing!
I definitely should've filed my taxes by hand this year since I'm only a student and my taxes aren't complicated...Hopefully I'll be able to take advantage of this next year then.