Free Income Tax Filing Options

Did you know that you can file your taxes online for free? There are options available for you to file your income tax return for nothing – nada.  There are also options available to get free assistance and use tax preparation software for free, as long as your income is within the limits.

As you research a way to prepare your taxes using one of the no-cost or low-cost methods, keep your guard up.  Beware of Refund Anticipation Loans – the loan that the tax prep company offers you in order to receive your refund (actually only a portion of it).  These loans are tempting, especially if you need the money right away, but the problem is that these loans are nothing more than well-disguised payday loans.

Hopefully you realize that this type of loan is extremely costly in terms of interest rate being charged – effective rates can be as high as 100% or more in many cases.  When e-filing a return, as long as there aren’t any problems with the return, you’ll receive your refund by direct deposit in a relatively short time, 4-6 weeks or less in many cases.  Don’t fall for the easy money offer!

Regarding free filing options, the IRS has recently published a couple of documents describing the process and the availability of these options for you.  The complete text of the two documents is duplicated below:

IRS NEWSWIRE IR-2013-15

Do your Taxes and E-File for Free with Free File

WASHINGTON – All taxpayers have a fast, safe and free option when it comes to preparing their own federal taxes.  It’s called Free File, and it’s available only at IRS.gov.

Free File offers brand-name tax software to people who earned $57,000 or less last year, which is 70 percent of all taxpayers.  For those who earned more, there are free online fillable forms. Both options allow people to file returns electronically and use direct deposit, which is the fastest way to get refunds.

The nations leading tax software companies have partnered with the IRS to make their products available for free through IRS.gov.  Each company sets its own eligibility criteria, generally based on income, state residency, age, military service or eligibility for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).  There is also a software option that is available in Spanish for people who earned $30,000 or less.

Free File does the hard work for you.  The software asks the questions; you provide the answers.  It picks the right forms, does the math and helps you find all the tax benefits for which you are eligible.

All participating Free File partners have been vetted and use the latest in security technology.  Some Free File software providers also offer state tax returns for free or for a fee.

Free File Fillable Forms is the electronic version of IRS paper forms.  It’s best for people experienced and comfortable preparing their own returns on paper.  It does not support state tax returns.

Some Free File software products also are available in select free tax preparation sites operated by Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE).  Taxpayers can use VITA or TCE computers to access Free File, prepare their own state and federal returns with a trained and certified volunteer on stand-by to help and e-file – all for free.

To find a participating site near you, go to IRS.gov and search for “VITA” to find a self-preparation site location near you.

More than 36 million people have used Free File since it started in 2003.  You can explore all your options at www.irs.gov/freefile.

Businesses, organizations, states or local governments may want to promote Free File to their employees, customers or clients with products from the IRS.  Just go to www.freefile.irs.gov/partners to see what you can do to help.  There are printable posters, a tax-day countdown widget for websites and prepared social media posts for your use.

IRS TAX TIP 2013-05

Let Free File Do The Hard Work For You

Taxes can be taxing.  But, you don’t have to be a tax expert to prepare your federal tax return.  Using IRS Free File, you can prepare and e-file your federal taxes on brand-name software for free.  The program is a partnership between the IRS and the Free File Alliance, a group of about 15 private-sector tax software companies.

All Free File software companies use the latest encryption software.  More than 36 million taxpayers used Free File safely and securely since 2003.  Free File is not only safe and secure, but using Free File’s e-file option and direct deposit is the fastest way to get a refund.

Here are four tips about IRS Free File:

  1. Access IRS.gov.  To avoid any charges for preparing or e-filing your federal tax return, you must access Free File through the IRS.gov website.  Once you choose a Free File company, you will be directed to their website to prepare, print and e-file your return.
  2. Taxes simplified.  Free File software’s question and answer format will help you find tax breaks, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit.  The software selects the appropriate tax form and does the calculations for you.
  3. Free options for all.  People who make $57,000 or less, which includes most Americans, can use the Free File brand-name software.  People who earn more can use Free File Fillable Forms, an electronic version of IRS paper forms.
  4. Free extensions.  Taxpayers who cannot complete their tax returns by the April 15 filing deadline can request a six=month extension.  It’s free and easy.  Remember, though, that this is an extension of time to file, not to pay.  If you think you owe, complete the estimated payment section and submit your payment with your extension request to avoid penalties and interest.

Free File.  It’s Fast.  It’s Safe.  It’s Free.  For more information, visit IRS.gov/freefile.

About the author

Jim Blankenship, CFP®, EA

Jim Blankenship is the founder and principal of Blankenship Financial Planning, Ltd., a financial planning firm providing hourly, as-needed financial planning and advice. A financial services professional for over 25 years, Jim is a CFP professional and has earned the Enrolled Agent designation, a designation that qualifies him as enrolled to practice before the IRS. Jim is also a NAPFA-registered financial advisor, which designates him as a Fee-Only Financial Advisor.

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