April 15 looms on my calendar. No matter how organized I am or how early I prepare, tax day always gets my stomach’s butterflies fluttering.
But the days of sitting in an uncomfortable, overheated office to wait for a pro to pluck away at your tax return are over.
Thanks to the power of technology, electronic tax return filing is as routine as checking your sports scores or your bank account online. With a few clicks, you can get the agony of filing your annual tax return over with — and get on with your life.
Wondering where to start? Overwhelmed by promises shouted from TV commercials?
Don’t dive in — or pay up — until you read these options for filing your taxes for free.
If you live in a state that collects income tax, you may have to pay a nominal fee to file through the services below. If you don’t have to file a state tax return, chances are good you can spend precisely zero dollars to e-file.
If you’ve received your new tax form and want to file your taxes as soon as you can — Monday, Jan. 28, to be exact — then take a look below to see which free option is best for you.
How to File Your Taxes for Free
1. The IRS
The IRS offers two versions of its Free File program.
If you made less than $66,000 in 2018, you can file your federal return for free through online software.
The IRS doesn’t directly provide this service, but it partners with 13 tax preparation companies — like H&R Block and Jackson Hewitt — to facilitate your process.
Some state returns are available for free through these companies, so check for your state before choosing one to file your federal return.
If you made more than $66,000, you can e-file your taxes for free directly through the IRS.
While the tool provides basic calculations, it doesn’t hold your hand through the process like the IRS’s partnerships at the lower income level.
Also, state tax prep isn’t available at this level.
2. United Way MyFreeTaxes
If you made less than $66,000 per year, take advantage of the United Way’s MyFreeTaxes program to file state and federal taxes online for free.
The site notes that 100 million Americans qualify for this free filing service, powered by H&R Block.
3. TurboTax Federal Free Edition
If your tax return is simple — maybe just one or two W-2s — filing with TurboTax online could be your best option.
In previous years, I’ve filed my federal taxes through TurboTax for free, then ponied up $30 or so to prepare my state returns. But now, TurboTax offers federal and state tax preparation for free via TurboTax’s 1040EZ/A Absolute Zero guarantee.
If you make less than $100,000, don’t own a home or business and didn’t deal with investments or major medical expenses, this is a great option for you.
4. H&R Block Free Edition
H&R Block offers a free option for those filing simple returns.
Its online Free Edition allows you to e-file federal returns for free, and a state return option is now included with the package.
If you’re expecting a hefty refund, you can get an additional bonus from H&R Block.
When you e-file, choose to receive $100 increments of your refund in gift cards from your favorite retailers (think Amazon, Target and Nordstrom). H&R Block will kick in an extra 5% toward the gift card amount.
If a 1040EZ is all you need to file, TaxSlayer will help you do it online for free.
The Simply Free edition offers a deduction finder, and you can add your state return at no charge.
Active-duty military members receive a free classic edition federal tax return through TaxSlayer offers.
If you simply need to file a 1040EZ/A, federal and state returns are free with TaxAct.
If you get a refund, you can choose to receive it on American Express Serve — a prepaid debit card that doesn’t require a credit check or minimum balance.
7. Liberty Tax Service
Wondering if Liberty Tax Service offers a free filing option? It does, but you wouldn’t guess it looking at DIY Tax — no Statue of Liberty logos here.
DIY Tax promises free, easy e-filing for 1040EZ/A and state returns.
Here’s another offering backed by Liberty Tax: ESmart Tax offers free e-filing of 1040EZ and state forms.
EFile.com offers free basic federal filing and advises this option if you’re single or married and filing jointly with no dependents.
If you need to file a state return and expect a refund, you can choose to have the fee for your state filing deducted from your refund. You can get 50% off if you file with your state when you enter the promo code “50eFile.com.”
If things get complicated, eFile promises to charge for only the least expensive service you need. There’s no pressure to get a deluxe package if you won’t use all the perks.
Bonus: Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA)
Want to talk it out? Sit down with an IRS volunteer.
If you make $54,000 or less, have a disability, are elderly or speak limited English, it’s free to use the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program.
Electronic filing also is available in some locations.
Search the IRS database of VITA centers — a lot of them are at local libraries — to see if you need an appointment.
The IRS also offers Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) at some locations. It’s free if you’re over 60, and volunteers are well-versed in financial concerns for retired individuals.
All volunteers are certified by the IRS and many have professional backgrounds in accounting and finance.
Lisa Rowan is a senior writer at Codetic. She stocks up on antacids during tax season.