How to file your federal and state taxes for free


In any sane society, the government would make paying taxes easier for everyone and provide free online ability to do so. But we are talking about the US where private for-profit companies buy the legislature and prevent necessary services to its citizens so that they are forced into paying for things they should get free.

When it comes to tax paying, the government has made a deal with private tax-preparation companies that they will not provide online tax filing services but in return the companies must enable people with incomes less than $69,000 to be able to file for free. Of course, the greedy companies want more and what they have done is resorted to all manner of trickery to hide the free services behind a maze of deceptive links and also dupe people into thinking that their particular situation disqualifies them from free services when that is not the case.

The investigative journalism outfit ProPublica did an expose of these shady practices which should have resulted in the government taking stern action against the companies to the extent of abrogating the deal and providing the services themselves. But of course they did not.

But thankfully ProPublica has provided a handy guide to how you can access free tax filing software in you qualify under the income threshold, whatever your specific situation. That link also discusses how the tax preparation companies misled people into paying for the services.

Comments

  1. Reginald Selkirk says

    I have made a couple recent trips to the sports bar, which means exposure to things I normally don’t encounter. I.e. television, and the advertisements that entails. I have repeatedly seen ads by TurboTax about how everyone should be able to do their taxes (and they can, with the help of TurboTax). Well isn’t that chutzpah, since TurboTax and the whole tax prep industry has lobbied hard and successfully to keep easy self-preparation of taxes impossible?

  2. says

    In any sane society, the government would make paying taxes easier for everyone and provide free online ability to do so.

    That is what is happening where I live.

    When it comes to tax paying, the government has made a deal with private tax-preparation companies that they will not provide online tax filing services

    Holy shit! This is ridiculous.

    Shouldn’t this serve as some extra motivation to dodge paying taxes at all? Or is it hard to avoid paying taxes without getting caught in the USA?

  3. Ketil Tveiten says

    Here in the Nordics, we get sent (electronically, on paper if you ask for it) a pre-filled form with everything the tax authorities know about, then we can add missing things and make corrections as needed, before confirming that the form now is done and submitting it. If you have no corrections to make, you don’t even have to do anything, as not doing anything by the deadline defaults to accepting that the pre-filled stuff is correct. Couldn’t be easier.

  4. mastmaker says

    FreeTaxUSA is your friend. You can file federal for free (no exceptions) and you pay $12.95 for state. Way cheaper than TurboTax and (my former tax prep site) TaxAct. Also no constant pestering to upgrade or to buy other services. You pay a little more for unlimited refiling etc.

  5. Who Cares says

    There has been a recent change with the covenant that those firms had with the government.
    Not allowed to hide search terms, all need to use the same form to find the free filing option(s) and removal of the non-compete clause. That is still mostly cosmetic but it shows a shift at the treasure department.

  6. Sunday Afternoon says

    @mastmaker, #4:

    Thanks for that recommendation!

    For many years I used HR Block with the same CPA, mainly for the convenience as the desktop version of TurboTax was annoying in the extreme back in the early 2000s. The peace of mind provided given I was someone new to the US was worth it. So, I would submit the forms early and the appointment was us generally going over some details and clearly I was prepared to pay through the nose for the service.

    Then 2 years ago that CPA retired. We picked another, and used the heavily marketed HR block website to submit our forms well ahead of our appointment. Imagine our annoyance when the new CPA had not used the pre-submitted forms to prepare for our appointment, which then consisted of us watching this person enter our data into a computer.

    Well we can do that ourselves, so last year we used TurboTax online. This was actually a good experience and cost roughly a third of what we had been paying to HR Block. Now I’m very interested in trying out https://www.freetaxusa.com/.

    Thanks!

  7. mastmaker says

    @Sunday Afternoon #6:

    I hated TurboTax right from the beginning. I used TaxAct for 15 years until sometime in the mid-2010s when they suddenly wanted ~$50 in place of ~$15 (possible result of somebody buying the company out?) so I researched for a week and found FreeTaxUSA which is even better.

    I think there’s a way in which you can use FreeTaxUSA completely free. You use them to file Federal online and use them to calculate the state taxes but file it offline. I am happy to pay them ~$20 for their deluxe package including one state.

  8. Jackson says

    Credit Karma has free federal and state taxes.

    It’s also a good idea to do your taxes with a pencil and paper so you understand them instead of just answering the questions with these tax software packages.