Tax Season 2023: File Your Taxes for Free With This IRS Program

This story is part Taxes 2023CNET’s coverage of the best tax software, tax tips, and everything you need to file and track your refund.

Tax day is almost here. But if you haven’t prepared your tax return yet, there is a program that allows millions of Americans to file their federal tax returns for free.

IRS Free File is a partnership between the IRS and seven of the nation’s largest online tax preparation companies. If your adjusted gross income last year was less than $73,000, you can use Free File to process and submit a simple return for free. (Some participating companies will even process your statement of status.)

Nearly 70% of taxpayers are eligible for Free File, according to the IRS. But less than 2% have taken advantage of the program since its launch in 2003.

Here’s what you need to know about Free File, including who’s eligible, what it can do, and what you’ll need to use it.

What is an IRS Free File?

IRS Free File is a non-profit partnership between the IRS and the Free File Alliance, a group of commercial tax preparation companies that have agreed to process and file federal returns electronically for free. (Some may also offer free status returns.)

If you use Free File, you will be directed to one of these companies’ sites to complete your return with step-by-step instructions.

  • (in English and Spanish)
  • Taxes online
  • TaxAct
  • FreeTaxUSA
  • tax killer

Note: Intuit TurboTax has withdrawn from the program in 2021.

Who is eligible for the IRS Free File?

Participating tax preparation providers set their own eligibility rules, but people whose adjusted gross income was $73,000 or less in 2022 will likely find an offer they qualify for.

The system is only configured to process relatively simple declarations.

If you earn more than $73,000, the IRS still provides forms to fill out to allow you to file your federal taxes online, although there are no step-by-step guidance.

How does the IRS Free File work?

The Free File program can answer basic questions, perform calculations, and file your federal return with the IRS.

“Our software offers step-by-step help to get your federal taxes paid quickly, safely, securely, and absolutely at no cost,” Free File Alliance Director Tim Hugo said in a statement.

You can access the program on your computer, smartphone or tablet. However, this cannot be done in person or by mail. Also, Free File cannot be used to submit returns for a year prior to 2022.

To file with IRS Free File, you will need:

  • Income statements (W2s, 1099s, etc.)
  • Social Security numbers for you and any applicable spouse or dependent
  • Your 2021 tax return in order to access your Adjusted gross income

Once you have your documentation:

1. Go to the IRS Free File website.

2. Click the “Use free guided tax preparation” button. Then press “Start Search Tool” under the IRS Free Files Online Search Tool to help you find the right product.

3. You can also use the Browse All Offers tool to review each offer.

4. Select the best product.

5. Follow the links to the provider’s website to begin your tax return.

Is IRS Free File really free?

According to the IRS, you cannot be invited to purchase products or services in exchange for the preparation of a federal income tax return by a participant in the Free File program.

You may, however, be instructed to file a status statement.

For more tax advice,
find out what to do if you have not received your W-2find out about tax credits for owners and get the download on the best tax software for 2023.

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