IRS Free File is exactly what the name says

This program provides the bottom 70% of U.S. earners with zero-cost tax-filing services for federal returns. The IRS says Free File has saved Americans well over $1.7 billion in filing fees since its launch in 2003.

Here's how it works: If your income is $73,000 or less, you can file using a free version of popular name-brand tax software, such as TaxAct.

Each provider sets its own eligibility rules — based on age, income and location — but you'll have at least one option if your income meets that threshold. You might even be able to score a free state return.

Earn too much? The free software isn't available to you, but if you're willing to try tackling an old-fashioned tax return on your own, you can use "Free File Fillable Forms." (Say that five times fast.)

Note that while Free File itself is free, there can be related charges, such as a credit card fee if you use plastic to pay any taxes you owe, or a charge to file your state taxes with the same commercial tax-prep service.

Don't worry, you can still file on your own or with expert help. 30% of Americans who file electronically file with TurboTax.

Get Started

Using Free File software

Happy man paying bills on his laptop in living room
baranq / Shutterstock
You use a free version of popular, commercial tax software.

If your income qualifies you for Free File software, go to IRS.gov/freefile. Choose the option best for you, and you'll be directed to click through to the company's website. (You can also save a step and go directly to the site of a provider.)

You'll need to have a copy of your last tax return handy, along with your W-2 and any other documentation of your income and deductions.

Never used tax software before? It's incredibly easy and goes step-by-step through your return by asking a series of questions to fill in all of the blanks. At the end of the process, you file your return eletronically.

The IRS says you save time and will get your refund faster, particularly if you opt to have the money direct-deposited into your bank account.

For 2022, the following providers are participating:

  • 1040Now.NET
  • ezTaxReturn.com (available in Spanish)
  • FreeTaxReturn.com INC
  • FileYourTaxes.com
  • On-Line Taxes at OLT.com
  • TaxAct
  • FreeTaxUSA
  • TaxSlayer (coming soon in Spanish)

Feel like something's missing? Two of the leading names in tax software have exited the program over the last couple years: TurboTax this past summer and H&R Block in 2020.

Using 'Free File Fillable Forms'

Person filling in a tax return on a computer screen
REDPIXEL.PL/Shutterstock
You fill in all of the lines on a tax return manually, on your computer screen.

The Free File version available to higher earners requires you to keep things somewhat lower-tech and fill in a tax return manually on your computer screen.

You'll also need to know what you're doing, including which additional forms and schedules to file with your 1040.

Fillable Forms won't make any recommendations, check for errors or allow you to make changes after filing. It also doesn't offer any state returns or federal returns for past years.

You still can file your return electronically and have any refund direct-deposited.

Taxes aren't getting any simpler, despite past promises that one day we'd all be filing on postcards. You're probably going to need help with your return — but don't pay for it if you don't have to.

Never overpay on Amazon again

Make sure to price-check online purchases with the help of Capital One Shopping. It’s totally free to use and takes less than a minute to set up.

Last year the service saved its customers over $160 million, and with just a few clicks you can start saving, too.

Download Capital One Shopping today and stop paying more than you have to for the exact same stuff.

About the Author

Doug Whiteman

Doug Whiteman

Former Editor-in-Chief

Doug Whiteman was formerly the editor-in-chief of MoneyWise. He has been quoted by The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and CNBC.com and has been interviewed on Fox Business, CBS Radio and the syndicated TV show "First Business."

What to Read Next

Here's when it's a good idea to pay your taxes with a credit card

Rake in the points if you can, but look out for processing fees and high interest rates.

A paper weight around the IRS’ neck could delay your tax refund

Paper forms, manual data entry are extra problematic this year with more complex returns.

Don't let child tax credits and stimulus checks trip up your taxes in 2022

Here's what you should know to prevent any hangups and get your refund on time.

Investing 101: A beginner's guide

Find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to investing and investments.

Disclaimer

The content provided on MoneyWise is information to help users become financially literate. It is neither tax nor legal advice, is not intended to be relied upon as a forecast, research or investment advice, and is not a recommendation, offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities or to adopt any investment strategy. Tax, investment and all other decisions should be made, as appropriate, only with guidance from a qualified professional. We make no representation or warranty of any kind, either express or implied, with respect to the data provided, the timeliness thereof, the results to be obtained by the use thereof or any other matter.