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Filing Your Taxes for Free

If there’s one thing I regret about my experience with taxes, it’s that I didn’t take the opportunity to file for free using tax software while I could. I actually filled out the forms manually, very carefully, every year from 14 through 21. Once I was 21, I got married and wasn’t looking forward to filing (it was a complicated year for being employed). But after winning a free copy of H&R Block’s Tax Cut last year (thanks Queercents!), I realized how easy tax software is to use.

The good news? You may still qualify, at least for free federal e-file. And once you’ve done federal taxes, state taxes are much easier.

So here’s the skinny. If you want to file for free, you can get an entire list of groups that’ll help you here on the IRS’s website. The list includes details of what each group will do. You have to have earned under $56,000 and be under 55 years old to qualify for most of them. There are a few who don’t have age restrictions listed (I don’t know if they still restrict based on age.

Among lesser-known companies, you’ll see bigger names such as TurboTax. Turbo Tax’s Federal Freedom Edition offers free federal tax preparation and e-file if your Adjusted Gross Income is $30,000 or less or you are active military or you qualify for Earned Income Tax Credit. Includes Form 982 (Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief).

One of the college students at my workplace told me yesterday that he used TurboTax’s Federal Freedom package to get his federal taxes done in 15 minutes. Doing his state taxes was easy after that. I’ll admit a great deal of jealousy.

If you earned less than $56,000 (and are under 50), you can use another brand-name, TaxCut, to file your federal taxes for free. It also includes Form 982.

There may be reasons you’re not eligible…my running a sole proprietorship makes the whole situation a lot messier. This year I think we need a professional. But if your jobs are simple, your income is represented on a W-2 or two, and you meet the criteria, then go for it! If you turn out not to qualify, you can always back out and either buy the advanced software or use another method.


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Ways to File Your Taxes for Free, Including Turbo Tax Federal Freedom
February 2, 2009 at 8:42 pm

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Miranda January 29, 2009 at 11:38 am

Thanks for sharing these resources. You can also get free tax help if you live near a university with an accounting program. In many cases, you can get students to help you.

We’re going with a professional as well. With the LLC, the investments and the itemizing, it’s just much easier that way.

Stacey January 31, 2009 at 7:41 pm

I’ve used TaxCut before with no problems, but they removed Schedule C from their list of “free” forms this year. It was a bit annoying, because they didn’t announce the problem until I was halfway done. I’ve used TaxCut as a sole proprietor before.

We’ve switched to TaxAct for this year, and it went fairly smoothly. Our return isn’t too complicated, it just involves a lot of forms that would drive me CRAZY on paper.

I would highly recommend using the IRS’s free-file resources if you are eligible, and H&R Block’s program was the easiest by far. But the other free programs aren’t bad, either. I’ve used free-file to claim my business income and expenses, itemized deductions, ect. They’ve got a great step-by-step format that mimics the “box” software you can buy in the store.

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