Free Tax Software Options

Allison Martin
taxes

Do you need to file a tax return, but want to avoid forking over a hefty sum of cash to a tax return preparer? There are several free options for federal returns if your income is less than $62,000, though there is typically a fee for state returns. You can use free tax software for as many years as you qualify. Once your income exceeds the threshold, you have the option to pay a fee for access to the company's tax software and e-filing service.

5 Free Tax Programs to Consider

The free programs discussed here are web-based, so it is not necessary to install additional software on your computer. Limitations vary by program, so review carefully to determine which option best meets your needs. Fee-based upgrades are available for each program.

1. H&R Block Free Edition

H & R Block Free Edition is ideal for those who need to file a simple federal tax return. The software includes the following components:

  • Free e-file

  • A comprehensive review of your return to gauge the overall accuracy and audit risk

  • A section for frequently asked questions by topic

  • A thorough explanation of your refund amount

You can complete your federal and state return on a desktop, laptop or while on-the-go via your smartphone or tablet.

A filing fee of $29.99 per state return applies, even for non-complex 1040EZ returns, notes TopTenReviews. However, the program is user-friendly and quickly detects errors.

Available Upgrades

Name of Program

Federal Filing Fee

State Filing Fee

Ideal for:

Basic

$39.99

$39.99

Returning users who want to import last year's data

Deluxe

$54.99

$39.99

Investors

Premium

$74.99

$39.99

Self-employed people

Rental property owners

You can start preparing your federal and state returns with H&R Block's tax software by visiting hrblock.com.

2. TurboTax Federal Free Edition

When you select TurboTax Federal Free Edition to file your return, you can automatically import your W-2 forms into the program using images from your smartphone. You will also have access to live assistance, detailed refund information and frequent accuracy checks throughout the preparation process.

TurboTax also offers a mobile app for Android and iOS devices so you can prepare and file your federal and state returns directly from your smartphone or tablet.

The Simple Dollar ranked this software at the top of its list as the easiest and safest way to file tax returns because of "its slick design to its top-of-the-line audit threat detection."

Unfortunately, a $29.99 fee applies if you need to file a state return.

Available Upgrades

Name of Program

Federal Filing Fee

State Filing Fee

Ideal for:

Deluxe

$54.99

$39.99 (per state)

Individuals who want to maximize their tax deductions

Premier

$79.99

$39.99 (per state)

Individuals who own investments and rental property

Home & Business

$104.99

$39.99 (per state)

Individuals who are self-employed or own a small businesses

To prepare and file your return with TurboTax, visit turbotax.intuit.com.

3. Jackson Hewitt

Jackson Hewitt's free tax filing software is appropriate for those with very simple returns. However, if you receive an earned income credit or interest income in excess of $1,500, you'll have to upgrade to a paid version.

If you choose to file your tax return using this program, you can rest assured that your entries are double-checked for accuracy every step of the way. However, telephone support is not provided with the free edition. Per TopTenReviews, several users have experienced authentication issues when attempting to log in.

A filing fee of $29.95 applies to state returns.

Available Upgrades

Name of Program

Federal Filing Fee

State Filing Fee

Ideal for:

Basic

$39.95

$39.95

Recent graduates, newlyweds

Deluxe

$54.95

$39.95

Families, homeowners, investors

Premium

$74.95

$39.95

Self-employed, complex returns

Visit jacksonhewitt.com to begin preparing your return.

4. TaxACT Online Free Edition

Unlike most free tax software programs, TaxACT® Online Free Edition enables you to file your state return for free. However, as with the other free products, it works only for fairly simple tax returns (1040A and 1040-EZ). According to MoneyCrashers, the program's "functionality and features, such as prior-year return importing and phone support, are somewhat limited."

TaxACT's Free File software offers an array of benefits including:

  • Real-time refund updates

  • Email support

  • A thorough tax glossary so you can gain an understanding of tax terminology

  • Live tax tips and strategies as you progress through the preparation process

  • Inspections to minimize audit risk and check for inaccuracies

  • The ability to import return data from TurboTax and H&R Block

Available Upgrades

Name of Program

Federal Filing Fee

State Filing Fee

Ideal for:

Basic

$14.99

$14.99

Returning users who want to import last year's data

Plus

$24.99

$14.99

Itemized returns, homeowners, investors

Premium

$34.99

$24.99

Self-employed, contractors, freelancers

To get started with TaxACT, visit www.taxact.com.

5. TaxSlayer Basic

TaxSlayer Basic is a free file program that includes an advanced error checker, refund maximizer tool and U.S.-based technical support. Federal and state returns must be filed from your computer since a mobile app is not available.

A filing fee of $29.99 applies for the first state return and $19.99 for subsequent returns.

Reviews.com cites limited support and the absence of a percentage-completed meter as drawbacks to the free version of the software.

Available Upgrades

Name of Program

Federal Filing Fee

State Filing Fee

Ideal for:

Classic

$17.99

$19.99

Returning users who want to import last year's data

Premium

$39.99

$19.99

Complex tax situations

To get started with TaxSlayer.com, visit taxslayer.com.

Prepare for the Unexpected

If you select one of these free software programs, make sure you don't wait until close to the last minute to prepare and file your taxes. You could find yourself in a bind if you experience technical difficulties or it turns out that your tax situation requires a more advanced version.

Free Tax Software Options