Free File Program Info & FAQs
Learn how simple it is to self-prepare and file your taxes online for free using the Free File program. If you made under $72,000 in 2020, you're good to go!
Note, many Free File companies offer their own "free" preparation services that are not connected to the Free File program. Thus, it is important to carefully read the terms and conditions for any of these other "free" services to ensure you do not end up being charged for what should be free.
The Free file program In-A-Flash
The IRS established the Free File program in 2003 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 2020, taxpayers with an adjusted gross income of $72,000 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. MyTaxRights 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 $72,000, 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)
What is the 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 2020, taxpayers who made $72,000 or less qualified for the program (i.e., approximately 104 million taxpayers).
Is my information safe with the Free File program?
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?
Can I use the Free File program if I do not own a computer?
What information or documents will I need if I intend on using the Free File program to self-prepare and e-file my return?
Receipts to support any expenses used to claim 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.
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.
Will I be liable for mistakes made on my return if I paid someone to do my taxes?
Free Fillable Forms
What if my Adjusted Gross Income was more than $72,000 in 2020?
If your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) was more than $72,000 in 2020, then you do not qualify for the online 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 independently 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?
People who generally make $56,000 or less;
Persons with disabilities; and
Limited English-speaking taxpayers who need assistance in preparing their own tax returns.
TCE: What is the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program?
LITC: What is the Low Income Tax Clinic (LITC)? Do I qualify for assistance through the LITC?
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.