How To File Taxes For Free or Save Money If You Can’t

It’s that time of year again – tax season. In this post, I’ll show you how to file your taxes online for free or save money completing your tax return if you don’t qualify for the free options.

Get started with filing your taxes today or estimate your potential refund. It’s tax time, let’s do this!

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TL;DR: For the majority of Americans, Cash App Taxes is the best free tax software with no income limits, paid tiers, or add-on services. It’s 100% free to file your federal and state taxes.

2023 Tax Season

The first date that you can submit your taxes is January 23, 2023.

This gives companies additional time to send your tax forms. It also allows the IRS a couple more weeks to program and test their systems following last minute tax law changes enacted by the Biden administration (the second round of stimulus payments and other benefits).

How To File Your Taxes

There are really only two ways to file your taxes: filing by paper and filing online.

Okay, there is a third option. You can go to a tax preparation company like H&R Block, but I won’t go over this here. Most people have pretty simple taxes and the extra fees these companies charge aren’t worth it.

That leaves us with the options of filling it by paper or through an online tax site. I’m all for doing things that make life easier. For filing income taxes, the easy method is to do it online… by a long mile.

If you’ve never filed your own taxes before, it can seem pretty intimidating. But have no fear! The online tax products available walks you through each step in layman’s terms. Your ninja grandma can do it (and she probably does).

Some may still be tempted to do it with a paper and pen so I’ll go over that option briefly (you’ll probably change your mind after reading how insane the process is).

File Your Taxes By Mail

If you prefer doing your taxes on paper forms and sending them via postal mail, that’s certainly available. You need to download Form 1040 and print out a physical copy. Form 1040 is used by U.S. taxpayers to file an annual income tax return.

There are also additional Schedules (forms) you need depending on your situation. Here are a few examples of Schedules you might use:

  • Schedule 1: If you have additional income, such as unemployment compensation, prize or award money, gambling winnings. Have any deductions to claim, such as student loan interest deduction, self-employment tax, educator expenses.
  • Schedule 2: If you owe other taxes, such as self-employment tax, household employment taxes, additional tax on IRAs or other qualified retirement plans and tax-favored accounts, AMT, or need to make an excess advance premium tax credit repayment.
  • Schedule 3: If you can claim any credit that you didn’t claim on Form 1040 or 1040-SR, such as the foreign tax credit, education credits, general business credit. Have other payments, such as an amount paid with a request for an extension to file or excess social security tax withheld.

Not only would you need those Schedules, but each Schedule has additional Schedules. For instance, if you’re a gig economy worker (like an Uber driver or DoorDash delivery person), you have to download and print Schedule 2 because you’re self-employed, but you’d also need Schedule SE to fill in your self-employment details.

You can check out the IRS web site and see how many forms they have for tax filing purposes.

Crazy, huh?

Honestly, unless you’re a glutton for punishment, I’d highly recommend staying away from paper filing. The tax code is confusing, has too many forms, and you’re likely to make a mistake filling it out (which can potentially cause tax audit headaches).

File Your Taxes Online

Last year, almost 72.9% of individual tax returns were filed electronically. No surprise here as filing taxes online is easy, convenient, and error-free thanks to tax software that calculates everything for you.

The convenience will cost you money, since the tax software companies need to make money from the service they provide. But you read The Money Ninja, so of course you came here to find out if there’s a way to file your taxes for free or at least get a discount on the paid options.

The answer is absolutely! Here are the ways you can do your taxes online for free or at least save a little bit of money.

Option #1: File For Free At Tax Software Sites

You can file your taxes online for free if you have a simple tax return. A simple tax return are ones that include any of the following:

  • W-2 income (income from employers)
  • Limited interest and dividend income reported on a 1099-INT or 1099-DIV (e.g. bank interest)
  • Claiming the standard deduction
  • Earned Income Tax Credit (EIC)
  • Child tax credits
  • Dependent tax credits
  • Education credits
  • Tuition and fees deduction
  • Unemployment income reported on a 1099-G

It DOES NOT include:

  • Itemized deductions
  • Business or 1099-NEC income
  • Stock sales
  • Rental property income
  • Credits, deductions and income reported on schedules 1-3, such as the Student Loan
  • Interest Deduction

If you fit this situation, you can use products like the TaxSlayer Simply Free to file your federal and state taxes for free!

TaxSlayer Simply Free tax filing
(Image from TaxSlayer)
Cash App Taxes
  • CashApp Taxes = Link
  • AGI = No Income Limit
  • Age = No Age Limit
  • Fed Filing = Any State of Residence
  • Free State Filing Included? = Yes
  • TaxSlayer Simply Free = Link
  • AGI = No Income Limit
  • Age = No Age Limit
  • Fed Filing = Any State of Residence
  • Free State Filing Included? = Yes
  • TaxAct Free Online Edition = Link
  • AGI = No Income Limit
  • Age = No Age Limit
  • Fed Filing = Any State of Residence
  • Free State Filing Included? = No, $4.95 Per State
  • TurboTax Free Edition = Link
  • AGI = No Income Limit
  • Age = No Age Limit
  • Fed Filing = Any State of Residence
  • Free State Filing Included? = Yes

Option #2: File For Free With IRS Free File

Did you know that 70% of Americans can file their taxes for free online thanks to a program called IRS Free File?

The IRS Free File Program is a partnership between the IRS and many tax software companies that provide their products for free if you can answer yes to one of the following questions:

  1. Is your adjusted gross income (AGI) $73,000 or less?
  2. Were you active duty military in 2022 with an AGI of $73,000 or less?
  3. Do you qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)?

If you’ve answered yes to at least one question, the following companies have tax software you can use to do your federal return free. Each company has its own special offers, including some that also offer free state tax returns:

  • TaxAct Free File Program = Direct Link
  • AGI = $73,000 or less
  • Age = Between the ages of 20 and 58
  • EITC = Included (if age and AGI criteria are met)
  • Military Pay = Included
  • Fed Filing = Any State of Residence
  • State Filing = Free state return in AL, AR, CT, DC, DE, HI, IA, ID, KS, LA, ME, MS, MT, OK, ND, NE, NH, NM, RI, UT, VT, WA, WV (other states = $39.95)
  • TaxSlayer Free File Program = Direct Link
  • AGI = $60,000 or less
  • Age = 57 or younger (or eligible for EITC)
  • EITC = Included
  • Military Pay = Included
  • Fed Filing = Any State of Residence
  • State Filing = Free state return in AR, AZ, DC, GA, IA, ID, IN, KY, MA, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT, NC, ND, NY, OR, RI, SC, VA, VT and WV (other states = $39.95)
  • TurboTax Free File Program = Direct Link
  • AGI = $41,000 or less
  • Age = Any
  • EITC = Included
  • Military = Included
  • Fed Filing = Any State of Residence
  • State Filing = Free state return if you qualify for the federal return

Option #3: Save Money Filing Your Tax Return Online

So you didn’t qualify for the free options… bummer.

But look at it this way. You made too much money to file for free. That’s a nice problem to have!

Fortunately, there are still ways to save money to do your taxes. Tax software companies team up with sites like Fidelity or other affiliates to offer a discount on their products:

  • TaxSlayer = Save 35% off your federal tax returns [Link]
  • TaxAct = Save 20% off your federal tax returns [Link]
  • TurboTax = Save up to $20 off on TurboTax federal products [Link]

The Bottom Line

Let’s be serious. Tax time is like going to the dentist. People know it needs to be done, but nobody likes doing it.

Filing your taxes online can save you time, get you tax deductions you may have missed if you did it on your own, and avoid any mistakes that will cause the IRS men in black to visit your house for a not so lovely tax audit.

Most people can file for free, and if not, I showed you ways you can save with various online tax software companies.

About John Pham

John Pham is a personal finance expert, serial entrepreneur, and founder of The Money Ninja. He has also been fortunate enough to have appeared in the New York Times, Boston Globe, and U.S. News & World Report. John has a B.S. in Entrepreneurship and a Masters in Business Administration, both from the University of New Hampshire.

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2 years ago

How do you use Visa gift cards to pay for property taxes? My taxes are several thousands of dollars and the Visa gift cards do not go over $1000. I can pay online but I don’t think the county allows for separate transactions?

Some places ask for 3 digit security codes when paying online. Does Visa gift cards have that number?