The only thing worse than slogging through your taxes each year is paying for the privilege.
But why pay for help if you can join the tens of millions of Americans who get their taxes done for free?
Today the Internal Revenue Service announced this year's edition of Free File is now available. Thanks to this popular but still underused program, you may be able to get zero-cost access to the same kind of tax software people pay $50 or more to use.
Here's how to find out whether you qualify and how to get started.
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.
Using Free File 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.
For 2022, the following providers are participating:
ezTaxReturn.com (available in Spanish)
On-Line Taxes at OLT.com
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'
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.
This article provides information only and should not be construed as advice. It is provided without warranty of any kind.