The IRS is now accepting 2021 tax returns with a deadline of April 18, 2022. There are some big changes to the free tax filing tools we recommended earlier this year, but you can still file your taxes for free.
Income under $73,000: IRS-free file program
If your adjusted gross income for 2021 was $73,000 or less, you qualify for the IRS Free File Program. This program is a partnership between the IRS and a variety of paid tax software companies. If you qualify, you can use certain tax programs for free. You can do your federal and state taxes, use all features, and even file e-files—all for $0.
Be careful: The free versions available through IRS Free File are different than the regular free versions available on each program’s website!
Note: Unfortunately, Intuit no longer participates in the IRS Free File Program for the 2021 tax year, meaning there is no IRS Free File version of TurboTax.
To take advantage of this offer, you must first be using the IRS Free File version of the software. If you meet the qualifications, you can use the software for free and you don’t have to pay for any of its features. You can’t just start with the “normal” free version of a control program. Doing so will expose you to features that require a payment and other upsells.
To start, visit the official IRS Free File website. You can Browse all available free file offers or use the IRS Free File Lookup Tool to discover the free file software that supports your situation. Different control programs have different limitations which are explained on the page.
Interested in TaxSlayer? Check MyFreeTaxes
MyFreeTaxes is a free tax service provided by The United Way. The organization offers a free version of TaxSlayer with no restrictions on the forms you use. If you start using TaxSlayer through The United Way, you may use it as long as your income is $73,000 or less.
The version of TaxSlayer offered through the IRS Free File website has an income limit of $39,000 or less. The version of TaxSlayer offered by The United Way allows you to submit for free if you earn $73,000 or less. All you have to do is start your return by clicking through the MyFreeTaxes website.
Note: If you made more than $73,000 in 2021, the MyFreeTaxes website will direct you to Cash App Taxes, which we cover below.
How about TurboTax Free Edition?
Intuit still offers a free version of Turbo Tax, but it’s only for very simple control situations. For example, even if your income was low in 2021, if you want to deduct student loan interest, you still have to pay to upgrade from TurboTax Free Edition.
Warning: TurboTax is still widely praised, so you might want to give it a try if you have a very basic situation, but remember that TurboTax’s free version is designed to sell you paid products.
Most people: Cash App Taxes
This year, the Credit Karma Tax turned into Cash App Taxes. Like Credit Karma Tax, Cash App Taxes is completely free for everyone with no upsells.
Despite the name change, this is the same app as Credit Karma Tax. If you’ve used it for the past few years and been happy with it, then it should be good for you.
Why the name change? Well, Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, acquired Credit Karma but was asked by the government to sell Credit Karma Tax as part of the deal. (Cash App is owned by Block, Inc., the company formerly called Square.)
Unfortunately, not everyone can use this application, just like back when it was called Credit Karma Tax. For example, Cash App Taxes does not allow you to file semi-annual government returns, multiple government returns, or non-resident government returns. So if you moved from one state to another in 2021 and both need to file state tax returns, Cash App Taxes isn’t for you.
Cash App Taxes is also missing other forms such as Form 1116 for Foreign Tax Credit or Form 2555 for Foreign Income. Here are the situations and forms that Cash App Taxes does not support.
Warning: Although it’s been around in various forms for a number of years, this is still a new application and hasn’t had that many years of development. We’ve heard reports of problems with it. If you have a complicated tax situation, consider verifying the work by running the numbers in another application before filing.
Free federal returns only: FreeTaxUSA
If you live in a state that doesn’t require you to file a state tax return, do a little research FreeTaxUSA. FreeTaxUSA offers free federal tax returns. So if you don’t have to file a state tax return in your state, FreeTaxUSA is completely free.
Top: You can attach a state tax return for a fee of $15 per state and there are no additional e-file fees. It’s a lot cheaper than TurboTax if you want to pay for tax software.
FreeTaxUSA has been around longer than Credit Karma Tax and supports a variety of situations that Credit Karma Tax also does not. It’s a more budget-friendly alternative to more expensive tools like TurboTax. TurboTax gets rave reviews for its user-friendly interface, but we’ve also used FreeTaxUSA and been happy with it.
Almost every: Free fillable forms
If you want to do things the old-fashioned way, there’s another option: the IRS offers Free fillable forms. Anyone can use it with no income limit.
These are electronic copies only of the standard IRS paper tax form. They’ll do some basic math for you, but that’s about it. Forget the user-friendly interview process of typical online tax filing solutions.
However, free fillable forms are still easier than dealing with standard paper forms, and you can submit the e-file directly from the IRS website for free when you’re done. No printing or mailing is required.
Note: The IRS only offers federal tax forms. After that you are on your own. However, your state may offer its own free fillable tax forms on its website.
Some of these electronic forms have some minor limitations that address rare tax situations. Here is a list of available forms and restrictions on the IRS website. If you need to do something that isn’t supported, you’ll either have to file on paper or use another tax return program
This guide is similar to our 2020 tax filing guide last year. There have been some changes including TurboTax leaving the IRS Free File Program and Credit Karma Tax being converted to Cash App Taxes. But you can still submit for free.
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