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How to Do Your Taxes for Free

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Filing your taxes probably isn’t at the top of your list for favorite things to do, especially if you have to cough up some extra cash on April 15. But whether you owe Uncle Sam this year or not, there are ways to file for free for the 2020 tax year. And given that the IRS found that around 70% of taxpayers can file their taxes via free services, this could be a great option for you, too.

Find out more about who can file taxes for free in 2021—for the 2020 tax year—and what options you might have for doing so below. You’ll also find some information on what to do if you can’t use free tax filing options.

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    Who Can File Their Taxes Free Online?

    Not everyone can take advantage of all free filing options. The IRS divides many of its options by income. Private tax software companies that provide a free option typically do so for those who only need to file simple returns.

    That means if you need to add any schedules because you have income from contracts or sources such as rents or investments, you may not be able to use the free options. Free tax filing services may also not be an ideal choice if you want to itemize deductions to further reduce your tax burden. 

    How to Do Your Taxes for Free: Some Options

    The IRS offers a couple of ways to file your taxes for free via its partner websites. You can also use free tax filing options from a number of commercial tax software vendors. Here’s a look at some of your choices:

    Free Tax Filing Via the IRS Website

    The IRS offers a free tax filing page, and you can typically start accessing the services linked on that page in January of each tax year. This page provides two basic options:

    • If your income is $72,000 or less for the 2020 calendar year—which is tax season 2021—you can use free tax filing options with IRS partner sites. Some of these also provide free state filing options. You’ll work through your taxes by answering simple questions, and the websites and software do the math for you.
    • If your income is more than $72,000, you can download free fillable forms from the IRS and prepare your taxes that way. This doesn’t include state filing, and you do need to be able to follow the instructions and do the math yourself.

    Free Tax Help for Qualifying Individuals

    If you’re unsure of the entire tax-filing process, you have special questions about issues such as pensions or military status or you just need help but can’t afford an accountant, you might qualify for free help with your taxes. Here are some free government programs that might be able to assist you:

    The IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program

    VITA is a program offered to individuals who make less than $56,000 per year, speak limited English or who have disabilities and need assistance with preparing tax returns. The tax preparation services are offered by volunteers who have been vetted by the IRS and have passed tax law training courses. You can find VITA service locations via the IRS lookup tool.

    The IRS Tax Counseling for the Elderly Program

    Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) is a program specifically for elderly tax filers—typically those over the age of 60. The volunteers in this program are trained in tax questions around pensions and retirement. You can find a TCE service location at the above-mentioned IRS lookup. You can also search for AARP service locations that include TCE options.

    MilTax from Military OneSource

    This program is for active-duty servicemen, reservists, National Guard members, veterans who were discharged in the past year, survivors of servicemen and qualifying family members. If you’re eligible, you can use a DIY software option provided by the program and have access to CPAs or IRS agents who can consult with you regarding your taxes.

    Other Ways to Do Your Taxes for Free

    If you just want to file simple taxes and you don’t qualify for one of the above services or options, you may be able to use a commercial software such as TaxAct.

    TaxAct provides a free federal filing option for simple filers, including those who have dependents, retirement income or college expenses. That option allows filers to report tax information such as W-2 income, dependents, stimulus credit and the child tax credit.

    It doesn’t, however, allow you to claim child and dependent care expenses, mortgage interest, student loan interest and other deductions—you would need to go up to the next level of service, which is Deluxe.

    And if you’re ready to file your taxes and sign up with TaxAct, we’ll even give you 25% off their fees and select products—just to make tax season a little easier for you.

    Choose the Tax Filing Method That’s Right for You

    Who doesn’t love free stuff? But even if you’re eligible to file your taxes for free, you may not want to. Make sure you take a look at your income, expenses and other tax matters for the year before deciding how to file your taxes. If you have certain types of deductions, filing for free could leave money on the table.

    A quick note—Credit.com is not a professional tax service and does not offer tax advice. If you’re not sure about your taxes, it may be a good time to consult with a professional to find out more. Reach out to a tax attorney or CPA, or use one of the free services above if you qualify. Taxes are an important financial consideration, just like budgets and credit scores, so you don’t want to make mistakes by being unaware of important information. 

    Disclosure: All TaxAct offers, products and services are subject to applicable terms and conditions. Price paid is determined at the time of filing and is subject to change.

    The TaxAct® name and logo are registered trademarks of TaxAct, Inc. and are used here with TaxAct’s permission.

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