It’s possible to ‘t avoid doing taxes, but you can avoid paying too many to file your return. Try these low-cost or free tax filing options.
Tax time can be stressful – and expensive – to complete before the filing deadline. But luckily, there are many free and low-cost resources to help you obtain the job done without a hefty cost tag and a mini meltdown. Here’s a breakdown of some of our favorite options.
1. If you have a simple tax situation
Several tax software companies offer free tax filing for people with simple tax returns. They include TurboTax Free Edition, TaxAct Online Free Edition and HandR Block Free Online Tax Filing let you file free federal and state returns as long as you have a simple tax return (e.g. file W-2 income, claim the standard deduction, Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit). Those who have more complex taxes -like homeowners, independent contractors or those who sold investments or want to itemize deductions – will have to pay for one of those company’s more souped-up paid versions. Credit Karma Tax has no income restrictions to use its free federal and state tax filing service, and can handle some more complex tax situations, albeit a little less smoothly, according to some reviews.
2. If you made $69,000 or less in 2020, try IRS Free File Alliance
The IRS has partnered with a coalition of industry-leading tax software companies to offer this program to Americans with an income of $69,000 or less. If you’re one of the 70% of taxpayers who qualify, then you can file your state and federal taxes for free. Use the FreeFile Online Lookup Tool (or the IRS2Go app) see if you’re eligible and to choose in the middle providers. Note that some states may charge a separate fee for e-filing. However, you can always print out your return and mail it to avoid the fee.
3. If you need IRL help, try the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program
Coordinated by the IRS, VITA provides in-person tax preparation by an IRS-certified volunteer at no charge for those who qualify – typically people who make less than $56,000 a year, persons with disabilities, those with limited English or others who need assistance. Check out the options available in your state with the Free Tax Prep Help locator to see if you qualify for the program.
4. If your taxes are complicated and you want to save, try TaxSlayer
With TaxSlayer’s free basic edition, a classic edition for $17, a premium version for $37 and just $47 for self-employed (contractors, 1099ers and side hustlers), TaxSlayer is one of the cheapest ways to file online if you have a more complicated situation (e.g., you own share or claim rental property, or you’re self-employed). Competitors charge more for filing trickier taxes, roughly $50 and up. During any point in the process, you can search TaxSlayer’s "knowledgebase" to find questions and answers on all tax topics.
5. If you’re in the military use Military OneSource MilTax
MilTax is a free tax prep and e-filing service designed specifically to address military-related tax issues, such as deployments, combat and training pay, housing and rentals and multistate filing. It’s offered through the U.S. Department of Defense’s MilitaryOneSource network, which also provides phone, online live chat and face-to-face tax help.