Tax day is on Monday, April 15th.
If your financial life is uncomplicated, and you have a simple tax return, you may be able to file your taxes without paying a penny. But some companies advertise “free” tax-filing services that are only free for very few people.
In this article, I’ll take a close look at eight of the most well-known tax filing options that claim to offer free filing services. I’ve checked out each of the services listed below to find out what’s included for free, who’s eligible for free tax filing and what you need to know before deciding which service to use.
This article was updated in January 2024 and I review it every 12 months.
Filing Taxes Online for Free
If you have a simple tax return with just W-2s and/or unemployment income, you’ll likely be eligible to file your taxes for free. Still, it’s important to do your research before you choose which tax filing software to use. Not all tax filing services are created the same, and not all of them allow you to file both state and federal returns for free.
Here’s a quick breakdown of what you need to know about the most popular free tax filing services available this year:
|IRS Free File
|Comparing free tax filing offers
|With Some Offers
|Filers with an adjusted gross income of $79,000 or below (If you earn more, you can fill out a federal tax return on your own for free.)
|H&R Block Free
|Filing from your phone
|People with W-2 income, unemployment income, social security income, student loan interest and/or who are claiming dependents
|Cash App Taxes
|Completely free filing with audit defense
|Anyone filing a simple tax return for only one state
|TurboTax Free Edition
|Free expert review for early filers
|Anyone filing a simple tax return who hasn't contributed to a traditional IRA or HSA.
|Students and military members
|Filers with simple tax returns (including one state) who aren’t claiming a Child Tax Credit and haven’t made IRA or HSA contributions
|Taxpayers over 50
|Filers with an adjusted gross income between $16,000 and $79,000 OR active duty members of the military with an adjusted gross income under $79,000
|Affordable complex tax returns
|Simple, free federal returns
|Filers with simple tax returns including W-2s, unemployment and/or retirement income who are claiming Child Tax Credit or Earned Income Credit
You’ll find more information on each service below to help you decide which software is best for you.
IRS Free File
Best for comparing free tax filing offers
The IRS has partnered with a variety of tax filing software companies, including several of those listed below, to create IRS Free File.
If your adjusted gross income (AGI) is $79,000 or less, you can click “Use Free Guided Tax Preparation” and browse all available free tax filing offers. You can also use the tool on the site to answer a few questions about your tax return and get matched with the best free filing software for you. You’ll definitely be able to file your federal taxes for free, but know that only some of the offers on the IRS website include free state filing.
If your 2023 adjusted gross income was over $79,000, you can still use IRS Free File. You’ll just have to fill out your own Free File Fillable Forms, which will require you to do a little math on your own. For more information on IRS Free File, check out our guide.
H&R Block Free
Best for filing from your phone
H&R Block offers a free online tax filing service that includes free state tax prep, Earned Income Credit (EITC) and deductions for student tuition, payments and loan interest. That makes it a great option for low-to-moderate-income filers as well as students. In addition to filling online, you can download the app for an even easier experience. This way, you can take pictures of your W-2 instead of entering the information box by box.
However, it’s important to know that if you’ve made contributions to Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), you won’t be eligible for the free version.
If you need additional help, H&R Block offers a “Deluxe” package with expert help for $35. According to the website, this includes unlimited help, on-demand chat or video and screen sharing.
Cash App Taxes
Best for completely free filing with audit defense
Previously Credit Karma Tax, Cash App Taxes also offers free tax filing online. Unless you have a really complicated tax return or you’re filing in more than one state, Cash App Taxes is a great option for filing your taxes for free.
This is the only service on the list that doesn’t offer a paid service for any features, including audit defense. According to the website, if you get audited by the IRS, a tax preparation professional from Cash App Taxes can help you respond to inquiries and explore your options.
While H&R Block requires users to upgrade to a paid option for things like HSA contributions, itemized deductions, self-employment income and small business ownership, Cash App Taxes includes them all on state and federal returns. That makes it a great fee-free option.
TurboTax Free Edition
Best for a free expert review for early filers
At some point during tax season, you’ve probably come across an advertisement for TurboTax Free Edition. If you’re filing a simple tax return including a W-2 and/or unemployment income, this could be a good option (Filers with Form 1040 and limited credit only can file using TurboTax Free Edition. ~37% of taxpayers qualify.). But if you’ve contributed to a traditional IRA or HSA, you won’t qualify for the free version.
If you’re eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or if you have child dependents to claim, TurboTax Free Edition makes it easy. The tech is easy too: You can upload a picture of your W-2 to avoid having to retype all the information. You can also get an expert to review your tax return for free if you file by March 31.
If you end up not qualifying for free filing of your federal and state returns with TurboTax, check out H&R Block as a backup. You can still claim the EITC and the qualifications for free filing are a little broader.
Best for students and military members
TaxSlayer offers a “Simply Free” service that includes federal tax returns and one state tax return. If you have a simple tax return with just a W-2 and/or unemployment income, you’ll be eligible for this service.
One thing that makes TaxSlayer stand apart from others on the list is the fact that you can deduct student loan interest and educational expenses. That makes it a great choice for both current and former students. Additionally, you can get free phone and email support.
If you’re a military member, you’ll be eligible to file federal taxes free with TaxSlayer Classic, which includes more complicated tax situations, the Child Tax Credit, HSA contributions, itemized deductions, self-employment income and more.
Best for taxpayers who are over 50 or have low to moderate income
AARP Foundation Tax-Aide offers free tax filing services to anyone with an adjusted gross income between $16,000 and $79,000. Active-duty military members with an adjusted gross income of $79,000 or lower are also eligible for free tax filing services.
AARP offers in-person and online free tax filing options, and there is no AARP membership requirement. To get started, visit the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide Service website. You can choose to have an IRS-certified volunteer prepare your taxes for you in person, or you can prepare your own taxes online with an IRS-certified volunteer coach or via the free online software.
If you choose to file in person, you can locate sites near you online. If you choose to file your taxes online yourself, you’ll be redirected to OnLine Taxes (OLT) where you can create an account and begin. Regardless of what you decide, you should be able to file a state and federal tax return free of charge as long as you meet the income requirements and have only a simple tax return to file. Small businesses with employees, rental income and/or alternative minimum tax qualify as complicated returns.
Not actually free but best for affordable complex tax returns
Despite its name, FreeTaxUSA is one of the two resources on this list that definitely is not 100% free. Still, at $14.99 per state filing, this service is extremely affordable.
If you have a more complicated tax return including self-employment, itemized deductions, IRA/HSA contributions, or something else entirely, you’ll still be able to file your federal tax return for free with FreeTaxUSA. No matter how complicated your federal return is, you’ll get the same flat rate for state returns.
If you find that you’re not eligible for other free tax filing options, FreeTaxUSA may be the best option for you. If you feel like you need additional support, you can purchase the Deluxe version for $7.99, which includes priority support with live chat, unlimited amended returns and audit assist. You’ll still have to pay an additional fee for each state return.
Best for simple, free federal returns
TaxAct offers both free and paid tax filing software. The free version includes W-2 income, unemployment income, retirement income, Child Tax Credits, Earned Income Credits and Stimulus Credit. It also allows students and those with dependents to file expenses.
Still, like many other “free” services, you’ll have to upgrade to a Deluxe package if you’re filing a more complicated return that includes things like student interest payments or HSA contributions. And it isn’t free to file your state return with TaxAct. That will cost you $39.99 per state filed.
Money expert Clark Howard is a fan of IRS Free File because it allows you to compare free tax filing options and choose the one that makes the most sense for you. Using this free resource, you’ll be able to save a lot of time and money.
If you’d rather download an app than visit a website, consider H&R Block Free for a great mobile experience. If free audit defense is a bigger priority, consider Cash App Taxes. To claim the Earned Income Tax Credit or a Child Tax Credit, make sure you’re using a free service that includes them like the TurboTax Free Edition. Similarly, student loan interest and expenses can be deducted for free with TaxSlayer. If you’re over 50 and need assistance filing your taxes, or if you’d prefer to file in person, check out AARP for free state and federal options both online and at locations across the country.
Do you plan on filing your taxes for free this year? Tell us where in the Clark.com community!