How to file your federal taxes for free in 2024

We all know that a dollar doesn’t stretch as far as it used to — so why pay to file your federal taxes when there are plenty of ways to do them online for free?

According to the accountants at Intuit, it costs an average of $220 to file a Form 1040 — and $323 if you have deductions. But that doesn’t mean you should fork over your hard-earned paychecks just to figure out how much you owe Uncle Sam.

How do I file my taxes for free?

Depending on how much you earn, you could be eligible to use one of the free tax software programs from the IRS; in fact, a pilot of its newest program, called Direct File, will be rolled out to taxpayers in 12 states in March 2024 — just in time to meet the April 15 filing deadline.

You can avoid spending hundreds of dollars on tax preparation by using free tax software programs.

damircudic/Getty Images

Taxpayers also have an array of free commercial options to choose from, from free versions of programs from big-name accountants like H&R Block and TurboTax to no-cost, community-based resources that focus on low-income earners and the elderly.

We’ll break them down so you can figure out which one’s best for you before the IRS officially begins processing 2023 tax returns on Monday, January 29, 2024.

Free online tax software programs

NameWebsiteCostState returns?RestrictionsLive help available?

IRS Direct File

https://www.irs.gov/about-irs/strategic-plan/direct-file

Free

Not included

The program is currently eligible to residents of AZ, CA, FL, MA, NH, NY, NV, SD, TN, TX, WA, and WY

Yes

IRS Free File

IRS.gov/freefile

Free

Free

Your adjusted gross income must be $79,000 or less

Yes

IRS Free File Fillable Forms

https://www.irs.gov/e-file-providers/free-file-fillable-forms

Free

Not included

This is the alternative for those making more than $79,000

No

H&R Block Free Online

https://turbotax.intuit.com/personal-taxes/online/

Free

Free

Best for taxpayers with simple tax returns

Yes, through AI

Intuit TurboTax Free Edition

https://turbotax.intuit.com/personal-taxes/online/

Free

Free

Best for taxpayers with simple tax returns

Yes

TaxSlayer Simply Free

https://www.taxslayer.com/

Free

Free

Your adjusted gross income must be $100,000 or less

Only for paid tiers

Related: How much is the 2023 Child Tax Credit? Has it increased?

Free tax software services from the federal government

The federal government offers three different free tax filing resources, and each is geared toward different types of filers.

IRS Direct File

Direct File, the newest offering from the federal government, is a free service that allows taxpayers to file their taxes directly with the IRS.

Through surveys with taxpayers, the IRS found that the majority of Americans would be interested in filing directly with the agency, and so funds for the project were created through the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. Built by a team of tax experts, software developers, and data engineers, the program is mobile-friendly and available in English and Spanish.

As of January 2024, you must be a resident in one of the following 12 states to be eligible: AZ, CA, FL, MA, NH, NY, NV, SD, TN, TX, WA, and WY. At present, income is limited to W-2 wages, Social Security, unemployment, and interest income amounting to less than $1,500. Live chat support is available, and users even have the option of receiving a follow-up phone call from an IRS representative.

Note that Direct File does not prepare state returns, but it will direct users in AZ, CA, MA, and NY to a state-sponsored tool they can use to prepare their state tax returns.

IRS Free File

The IRS Free File program is actually a partnership between the IRS and Free File Inc., which gives users free access to authorized tax software from providers like 1040NOW Corp., ezTaxReturn.com, and Tax Hawk. Some of these programs are also available in Spanish.

To qualify for IRS Free File services, your adjusted gross income must be $79,000 or less. Some providers even include state returns. (Access the list of forms covered.)

This program is easy to use; just follow the online prompts, and you will learn if you qualify for tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit, home energy tax credits, the Child Tax Credit, and more.

“Through the years, Free File has helped millions of taxpayers, and it remains an important option for people to consider using to quickly and easily file their taxes,” said IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel.

IRS Free File Fillable Forms

Even if your adjusted gross income exceeds $79,000, you can still take advantage of free IRS resources like its Free File Fillable Forms, which is an online repository of income tax forms for the current filing year. State returns are not included.

Related: Home energy tax credits: How they work, who is eligible & how to claim them

Free commercial tax software

Not all free tax software programs are created equal. Popular tax service providers offer some version of their tax software for free — just be aware that these services are pretty limited and are usually best suited for those with simple filing needs, such as Form 1040.

H&R Block

H&R Block Free Online wins accolades for having the easiest-to-follow interface — you can simply upload your 1040 from last year and it will fill in the rest. It includes the child tax credit, student loan interest deductions, and W-2 income, among other forms and schedules. There is no income limitation, and some state return forms are also included, but you can’t itemize your deductions.

In lieu of live chat support, H&R Block offers an AI-powered tax assist chatbot.

Intuit TurboTax

Intuit TurboTax Free Edition is pretty upfront about its limitations — on its homepage, it says only 37% of taxpayers qualify for the free version, and in 2021 it actually withdrew from its partnership in the IRS Free File program. In fact, the FTC recently found the company guilty of deceiving the public by claiming its services were free when they were not.

Still, if you have W-2 income and are claiming the standard deduction, it’s worth a try. (Here is the list of forms covered.) Just note that the software will probably try to steer you into one of its paid services, like the TurboTax Live Assisted Basic, which includes live support and even a free professional review of your tax forms, which sounds tempting, but comes with a $89 price tag.

TaxSlayer

TaxSlayer Simply Free is a good option for higher wage earners — it’s free for those with adjusted income of $100,000 or less, although they must claim the standard deduction and cannot claim dependents. (Here are the forms they support.) Those who don’t fall within this subset can pay $29.95 for the TaxSlayer Classic tier of service, which covers all tax situations. It also offers live chat support.

Related: Do capital losses offset income? Tax-loss harvesting for beginners

Other free tax preparation resources

Looking for other ways to file your federal taxes for free? The IRS offers several volunteer-led programs — they’re taxpayer-funded, so why not take advantage of them if you’re eligible.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program partners with nonprofit organizations, local and state governments, and colleges and universities to provide free tax preparation for low-income earners.

Taxpayers who qualify under the program include:

People whose adjusted gross income is $64,000 or lessPeople with disabilitiesPeople who speak languages other than English

Tax Counseling for the Elderly

Another program from the IRS is the Tax Counseling for the Elderly. This program answers questions about pensions and retirement-related topics and is geared toward seniors aged 60 and up.

State returns are included in both programs.

Volunteers receive tax law certification, and the IRS conducts a quality review check for each return prepared under their programs, so taxpayers can rest assured knowing that they are working with someone they can trust.

MilTax

In addition, the U.S. Department of Defense’s MilTax program offers free tax software as well as one-on-one tax preparation for active duty and retired members of the Army, Marine Corps., Navy, Air Force, Space Force, Coast Guard, and National Guard as well as reserve service members, their family members, and survivors. It also provides financial counseling services. Live chat and telephone consultations are available.

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