Free File Program

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Note, many tax return preparation companies offer their own free file service separate from the IRS Free File program. For example, companies such as FreeTaxUSA advertise free do-it-yourself federal tax return preparation and e-filing for everyone without any restrictions (with a small charge for state returns). Taxpayers should carefully read the terms and conditions for any "free" service not associated with Free File.

The Free file program In-A-Flash

The IRS established the Free File program in 2002 as a way of providing free online tax preparation and electronic return filing to 70% of the taxpaying population. The program is made possible through a public-private partnership between the IRS and the Free File Alliance---a coalition of tax preparation software companies. For tax year 2019, taxpayers with an adjusted gross income of $69,000 or less were eligible to use Free File (i.e., approximately 104 million taxpayers). But only a mere 2.5 million taxpayers opted to file their 2019 returns through Free File, while more than 50 million eligible taxpayers opted for a paid preparer service. 

Choosing a paid preparer service over the Free File program means that hundreds of millions of dollars are likely being wasted by low-income taxpayers on a service that is otherwise free. So why the low Free File participation rate? Well, recent comprehensive studies published by the IRS and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration indicate that taxpayers are largely unaware of the Free File program's existence or unsure how to successfully locate a Free File offer. Taxlete seeks to directly address these shortfalls by: (1) boosting awareness of beneficial programs like Free File; and (2) promoting the use of online do-it-yourself tax preparation services as a safe and efficient way for taxpayers to prepare and file their tax returns.

Note also that many of the participating Free File companies offer free tax preparation services separate from the Free File program, but these services are not under the same consumer-friendly marketing constraints. Thus, taxpayers should carefully read through the terms and conditions of any the separate "free" services.

Lastly, if you do not qualify for the Free File program because you made more than $69,000, you can still self-prepare and electronically file your taxes for free using IRS's Free Fillable Forms. Note, however, you will not have access to the tax preparation software that is otherwise available through the Free File program. Therefore, Free Fillable Forms is generally only recommended for those who know how to independently prepare a tax return. 

Free File: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

General

What is the IRS Free File program?


The IRS Free File program offers free federal tax return preparation and e-filing services to taxpayers who meet certain income requirements. For tax year 2019, taxpayers who made $69,000 or less qualified for the program (i.e., approximately 104 million taxpayers). Background In 2003, the IRS launched the Free File program in an effort to provide free online federal tax preparation and e-filing services to 70% of the taxpaying population (i.e., approximately 100 million taxpayers). The program is made possible through a public-private partnership between the IRS and the Free File Alliance---a group of industry-leading private-sector tax preparation companies. Notably, in addition to the income threshhold cap ($69,000 in 2019), each Free File Alliance member sets its own, unique eligibility criteria. To review a list of each member's criteria, see Taxlete's Free File Alliance Eligibility List. You may also use the IRS’s Free File Online Lookup Tool to quickly find a qualifying Free File offer. Some members also offer free state tax return preparation software. Note: Although Free File Alliance members must meet the IRS’s standards for security and privacy, he IRS does not endorse any individual Free File Alliance company. While the IRS manages the content of the Free File pages accessible on IRS.gov, it does not retain any taxpayer information entered on the Free File site.




Is my information safe with the Free File program?


Yes, according to the IRS. Your information is protected from any unauthorized access while it is being sent to the IRS. The companies that participate in the Free File program may not disclose or use tax return information for purposes other than tax return preparation without your informed and voluntary consent. These companies are also subject to the Federal Trade Commission Privacy and Safeguards Rules and IRS e-file regulations.




Can I use the Free File program if I have never prepared my own tax returns before? What if I am afraid of making a mistake?


Yes! Most individuals who qualify for the Free File program have common tax siutations and can use one of the available do-it-youself tax software programs to easily prepare and e-file federal tax returns. Please know that you do not need any specialized tax preparation experience or tax law knowledge to use the Free File program. The commercial tax preparation software offered by Free File members meticulously guide you through each relevant section of your tax return, question-by-question. Many taxpayers are able to finish the entire tax preparation process in under 60 minutes using a computer, tablet, or smartphone.




Can I use the Free File program if I do not own a computer?


Yes! You can prepare and file your taxes through the Free File program using either a computer, a smartphone. or a tablet. The IRS Free File Lookup Tool provides a quick way for taxpayers to find a Free File member that meets their specific tax situation. For more information, see the IRS's Press Release: Use IRS Free File Software on Smart Phones or Tablets.




What information or documents will I need if I intend on using the IRS Free File program to self-prepare and e-file my return?


You will need: (1) an e-mail address; (2) a copy of your last year's tax return; (3) and any records to support income, deduction, and tax credit amounts. Records include:

  • Receipts to support expense deductions;
  • Wage and earning statements (Forms W-2, W-2G, 1099-R, and 1099-Misc) from all employers;
  • All receipts pertaining to your small business, if applicable;
  • Income receipts from rental, real estate, royalties, partnerships, S corporation, trusts;
  • Interest and dividend statements from banks (Forms 1099);
  • Receipts to support amounts paid to a daycare provider, and the daycare provider's tax identifying number such as their Social Security number or business Employer Identification Number; and
  • Forms 1095-A, B and C, Health Coverage Statements.
For more information, see IRS.gov, Free File: What You Need to get Started.




Why I am being charged a fee for my state tax return?


The Free File program only covers federal tax returns. Thus, tax preparation companies may charge fees for state tax returns, although some companies also offer free state tax return services for certain taxpayers. Remember, you are under no obligation to buy any additional products or services offered by a Free File member.




How do I get a copy of my tax return?


Remember to always print a copy of your return after you successfully e-file it. Every tax return preparation company with the Free File program should offer you the option of either printing or downloading a copy of your completed tax return. If you forget to print a copy of your tax return, you can request a copy of your tax transcript from the IRS by visiting the IRS's Get Transcript page.




Will I be liable for mistakes made on my return if I paid someone to do my taxes?


Yes. The IRS takes the position that if your tax return preparer makes a mistake on your return that causes you to pay additional tax, interest, or penalties, then YOU are responsible. If this happens to you, contact your return preparer immediately and carefully read over any contract you signed with the preparer. If you are lucky (and the mistake was no fault of yours), the preparer may offer to cover the costs associated with the mistake. Otherwise, consider filling a complaint with the IRS Return Preparer Office. For more information, visit IRS.gov (Make a Complaint About a Tax Return Preparer). You may also want to consider preparing your own taxes using online tax preparation software. And if you made $69,000 or less in 2019, you may qualify to file your taxes online for free through the IRS Free File program. The online tax preparation software guides you through each relevant section of the return, question-by-question. For simple returns, you can generally complete the process in about an hour from the comfort of your home.





Free Fillable Forms

What if my Adjusted Gross Income was over $69,000 in 2019?


If your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) was more than $69,000 in 2019, then you do not qualify for the tax preparation services available under the Free File program. However, you still have the option of using the IRS's Free Fillable Forms service to self-prepare and e-file your federal tax returns. Note, though, you will need to be comfortable with indepdently preparing your return because you will not have access to the software-assisted service that is otherwise available with the Free File program.





Free Tax Assistance

VITA: What is the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program? And do I qualify for the program?


The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offers free tax assistance to:

  1. People who generally make $56,000 or less;
  2. Persons with disabilities; and
  3. Limited English speaking taxpayers who need assistance in preparing their own tax returns.
IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals. Find your nearest VITA site by using the IRS's VITA Site Locator Tool. Before going to a VITA site, review IRS Publication 3676-B to gain an understanding of the specific services provided. Also, be sure to check out the IRS's What to Bring page to ensure you have all the required documents and information that the VITA volunteers will need to assist you.




TCE: What is the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program?


The Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program offers free tax assistance for all taxpayers, particularly those who are 60 years of age and older, and specializes in questions about pensions and retirement-related issues unique to seniors. The IRS-certified volunteers who provide tax counseling are often retired individuals associated with non-profit organizations that receive grants from the IRS. Before going to a TCE site, review IRS Publication 3676-B to gain an understanding of the specific services provided. Also, be sure to check out the IRS's What to Bring page to ensure you have all the required documents and information that the TCE volunteers will need to assist you. TCE sites are generally located at community and neighborhood centers, libraries, schools, shopping malls, and other convenient locations across the country. To locate your nearest TCE site, use the IRS's TCE Locator Tool or call 800-906-9887. When looking for a TCE site, keep in mind that a majority of the TCE sites are operated by the AARP Foundation’s Tax Aide program. To locate the nearest AARP TCE Tax-Aide site, use the AARP Site Locator Tool or call 888-227-7669.




LITC: What is the Low Income Tax Clinic (LITC)? Do I qualify for assistance through the LITC?


A Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) is an organization that receives a matching grant from the IRS to represent low income individuals who have a tax dispute with the IRS, and to provide education and outreach to individuals who speak English as a second language (ESL). Qualified organizations include, among others, academic institutions and nonprofit organizations throughout the U.S. that meet the goals of the program. LITC services are free or low cost for eligible taxpayers. Although LITCs receive partial funding from the IRS, the clinics, their employees, and their volunteers are completely independent of the IRS. You can find the location of the LITC nearest you by using the LITC Map Tool on the Taxpayer Advocate site. The city for the main office of each clinic is listed; however, some clinics have multiple locations. Please contact the clinic for the office nearest you. Note, each clinic determines whether prospective clients meet income guidelines and other criteria before agreeing to represent them or provide consultation services. If you have questions about the LITC Program or grant application process, please contact the LITC Program Office at 202-317-4700 (not a toll-free call) or by email at LITCProgramOffice@irs.gov.





 

Current as January 1, 2020

Browse through the Free File member list below to find a company that meets your specific tax situation. Alternatively, you can use the IRS's Free File Program Lookup Tool to quickly find a qualifying Free File offer.

Remember, you are responsible for determining your eligibility for one of the Free File online offers.

Receive a free Federal return if:

  • Your Adjusted Gross Income is $69,000 or less, AND any age; 

            AND

  • You live in one of the following states: AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, GA, IL, LA, MA, MD, MI, MO, MS, NC, NJ, NY, OH, PA, SC, VA, or WI.

 

1040NOW does not provide free state tax preparation in any states.

Receive a free Federal return if:

  • Your Adjusted Gross Income is $69,000 or less, AND your age is between 17 and 51; 

          OR

  • You are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit; 

          OR

  • Free for Active Military for Adjusted Gross Income of $69,000 or less.

 

Free state return if you qualify for the federal return.

Receive a free Federal return if:

  • Your Adjusted Gross Income is $69,000 or less AND your age is 51 or younger; 

           OR

  • You are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit; 

           OR

  • Free for Active Military for Adjusted Gross Income of $69,000 or less.

 

Free state return, for some states, if you qualify for the federal return.

Receive a free Federal return if:

  • Your Adjusted Gross Income is $69,000 or less; 

           AND

  • Your age is 70 or younger; 

           AND

  • Live in any state, EXCEPT: DC, FL, IN, LA, MT, NH, NM, NV, RI, SD, TN, TX or WA;

           OR

  • Free for Active Military for Adjusted Gross Income of $69,000 or less.

 

Free state return, for some states, if you qualify for the federal return.

Receive a free Federal return if:

  • Your Adjusted Gross Income is between $14,000 and $69,000, AND any age; 

           OR

  • Free for Active Military for Adjusted Gross Income of $69,000 or less.

Free state return if you qualify for the federal return.

Receive a free Federal return if:

  • Your Adjusted Gross Income is $36,000 or less, AND any age; 

            OR

  • You are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit; 

            OR

  • Free for Active Military for Adjusted Gross Income of $69,000 or less.

 

Free state return, for some states, if you qualify for the federal return.

Receive a free Federal return if:

  • Your Adjusted Gross Income is $59,000 or less AND your age is 56 or younger;

          OR

  • You are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit; 

          OR

  • Free for Active Military for Adjusted Gross Income of $69,000 or less.

 

Free state return if you qualify for the federal return.

Receive a free Federal return if:

  • Your Adjusted Gross Income is $36,000 or less, AND any age; 

           OR

  • You are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit; 

           OR

  • Free for Active Military for Adjusted Gross Income of $69,000 or less.

 

Free state return if you qualify for the federal return.

Receive a free Federal return if:

  • Your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) is $69,000 or less and you live in one of the following states: AL, AR, AZ, CA, GA, IA, ID, KY, MI, MN, MO, MS, NC, ND, NY, OK, OR, RI, SC, VA, VT or WV;

           OR

  • Your AGI is $68,000 or less and you live in CO, CT, DC, DE, HI, IL, KS, LA, MA, MD, ME, MT, NE, NJ, NM, OH, PA, UT or WI;

           OR

  • Free for Active Military for Adjusted Gross Income of $69,000 or less.

 

No free state tax preparation in any states

Receive a free Federal return if:

  • Adjusted Gross Income is between $9,000 and $69,000, AND your age is 65 or younger; 

           OR

  • Free for Active Military for Adjusted Gross Income of $69,000 or less.

 

Free state return, for some states, if you qualify for the federal return

*UPDATE* On December 30, 2019, the IRS announced a revised agreement with Free File, Inc. (also known as the Free File Alliance) designed to make the Free File Program more taxpayer-friendly while strengthening consumer protections in several key areas. Read the IRS's official press release here.

 
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