Filing Taxes for Free: Guidelines for Taxpayers

Lidia Staron, author at OpenLoans
Lidia Staron   OpenLoans Marketing Manager
Personal Finance
I enjoy navigating people through important financial decisions.

Filing your taxes for free.

Yes, it's that time of the year again – tax preparation time. And we all know filing and paying taxes can be a pain. It's even more painful if you have to pay a fee in order to file your taxes. Fortunately, filing taxes for free is now possible for most taxpayers in 2019. That is, as long as you're willing to use specific products to file your taxes. Take note that most free tax software products are designed for a standard deduction; not for itemization. For those looking for options best suited for their particular situation, we've got just the list for you:

IRS Free File

The IRS has partnered with Free File Alliance which is a nonprofit group of tax software providers who offer free processing of federal returns. Some companies even offer free filing for state returns. It is important to note that each software will have its own requirements and restrictions. Most will only provide free tax filing services to taxpayers with an income below the $66,000 range. You can check the IRS website for more details. You can also read up on some of these programs below.

  • NET
  • eSmart Free File Edition
  • FreeTax Returns.com
  • FreeTaxUSA IRS ® Free File Edition
  • H&R Block’s Free File
  • Online Taxes at OLT.com
  • TaxAct®Free File
  • TaxSlayer
  • TurboTax Free File Program

IRS Free Fillable Forms

For taxpayers who earn more than $66,000 annually, you can use the IRS Free File Fillable Forms which allows you to file taxes online. Of course, this presupposes that you are comfortable completing the files on your own. To use these forms, you'll need to have your 2017 tax return on hand. Also, these forms will not help you file your state taxes.

IRS Paper Forms

Paper forms are not exactly free. Yes, the forms and filing the papers will not cost you anything. However, using this option does require you to mail your completed forms which means paying postage. You can find these forms on the IRS website as well as at post offices and libraries.

Free Editions from Software Providers

Tax software companies often provide free editions of their software for taxpayers with simple tax-filing situations. Some of these tax providers include TurboTax, TaxAct, and H&R Block. Taxpayers who need to claim complex deductions and require a range of forms may not qualify for these free editions. Take note that, in exchange for the free edition, you may need to provide the companies with your personal data.

MyFreeTaxes Initiative

H&R Block and United Way have formed a partnership which enables them to offer free federal and state tax filing to taxpayers who have an annual income of less than $66,000. You can complete your free tax filing on the H&R Block website using a desktop or mobile device.

Military OneSource

Taxpayers who have served in the military can use Military OneSource which offers free tax preparation software offered to qualified military personnel.

Jackson Hewitt

Jackson Hewitt is a tax preparation service that offers a free version of tax software for filing federal and state taxes. However, there are some requirements:

  • You need to have a taxable income that doesn't exceed $100,000 and includes W-2 wages or unemployment only
  • You only need a simple return
  • You are single or married filing jointly
  • You take the standard deduction

Free State Return Filing

Some states offer free tax filing services to their residents. For example, residents of Maryland can avail of free income tax assistance and free electronic filing in person or by phone. This is a good option if the free federal filing provider you end up choosing doesn't offer free state return filing. To find out if your state offers these services, you can check the state government's website.

Free Tax Assistance Programs

There are some federal and state programs that provide free tax assistance to certain taxpayers that qualify. For example, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offers free basic income tax return services to individuals who have disabilities, limited English fluency, or have an annual income of $54,000 or less. Through this program, these individuals are provided help by IRS-certified volunteers in preparing their taxes and filing. Another program is the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE). This one offers free filing to taxpayers who are 60 years of age or older. You can check the IRS website for more information as well as to learn how to locate TCE sites.

1040.com

1040.com is one of the tax software providers that are part of the IRS Free File option. Their service is only for taxpayers under the age of 52 who have an annual income that is less than $60,000. This provider also has a general free option which is open to taxpayers with no dependents, a taxable income that's less than $100,000, and other eligibility requirements. This option allows you to update your tax return from last year if you used the same program and makes it easy for you to prepare your current taxes using an interview-style method. You can even add your state return for free. As an added incentive, the company donates $2 to clean water projects for every return filed through them.

FreeTaxReturns.com

This IRS Free File Option provides free federal filing for taxpayers who are 70 years of age or younger, making less than $66,000, and a resident of any state EXCEPT Florida, Indiana, New Mexico, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, Oregon, and Washingon, D.C. Free state returns are also available for some states as well. Another benefit to using this option is that there is unlimited customer support.

FileYourTaxes.com

This option is available through the Free File Alliance. Most basic tax return forms here are free. You can avail of the free version if you are between 15 and 65 years of age with an adjusted gross income (AGI) of $9,000 to $60,000. Also, you can avail of free state return filing if you live in Iowa, Idaho, North Dakota, and Vermont. However, its customer service support is limited to just a few Q&A pages.

eSmart Tax

This service provider is a subsidiary of Liberty Tax. You can avail of this IRS Free File option if you are 53 years old or younger with an AGI of $66,000 or less. If you qualify for free federal returns, you may also qualify for free state returns depending on the state in which you reside. eSmart Tax also offers paid services for filing federal and state returns which cost only $19.95 each.

Tax Deadlines You Should Know:

Tax deadlines you should know about.

While choosing the right tax software product is crucial, you also need to be aware of when you need to file your taxes and what exactly you need to file. Knowing all of this will save you a lot of headaches during tax season. It will also save you a lot of money because you won't be paying any penalties. The following are deadlines that you have to take note of this year:

January 15, 2019:

4th Quarter 2018 Estimated Tax Payment Due

Self-employed individuals or other taxpayers who have fourth-quarter income which necessitates that you pay quarterly estimated taxes will need to have their payment submitted by this date.

April 15, 2019:

Individual Tax Returns Due for Tax Year 2018

You need to have your individual tax returns filed or postmarked by midnight of April 15th.

Individual Tax Return Extension Form Due for Tax Year 2018

If you are running behind on your filing, you need to submit a request for a tax extension by this date. Doing so will push back your tax deadline to October 15, 2019.

1st Quarter 2019 Estimated Tax Payment Due

Self-employed individuals or those who have other first-quarter income that necessitates payment of quarterly estimated taxes must have their Form 1040-ES postmarked by this date.

Last Day to make a 2018 IRA Contribution

Those who haven't funded their retirement account for 2018 still have time to do so by this date. This includes traditional IRA and Roth IRA. Those who have a Keogh or SEP can file an extension to push the date back to October 15, 2019, and fund their retirement account then.

June 15, 2019:

2nd Quarter 2019 Estimated Tax Payment Due

Self-employed individuals or those who have other second-quarter income that necessitates payment of quarterly estimated taxes must have their payment postmarked by this date.

September 15, 2019

3rd Quarter 2019 Estimated Tax Payment Due

Self-employed individuals or those who have other third-quarter income that necessitates payment of quarterly estimated taxes must have their payment postmarked by this date.

October 15, 2019

Extended Individual Tax Returns Due

If you were able to file an extension for your 2018 tax return, you must have it completed and postmarked by this date.

January 15, 2020

Self-employed individuals or those who have other fourth quarter income that necessitates payment of quarterly estimated taxes must have their fourth quarter payment postmarked by this date.

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