1040NOW Free File Edition

A first look at 1040now.net's free file software

Pregnant woman doing taxes at home
••• Shannon Taggart/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Individuals may be able to free their federal tax return at no cost through 1040NOW.net, which is one of fourteen tax software programs participating in the IRS's Free File Alliance.

Eligibility for free federal tax return:

  • Either (1) individuals with adjusted gross income of $60,000 or less and residing in the states of AL, AZ, AR, CA, GA, ID, IN, IA, KY, MI, MN, MS, MO, NY, NC, ND, OK, OR, RI, SC, VT, VA or WV;
  • Or (2) individuals with adjusted gross income of $60,000 or less, and age 60 or younger, and residing in the states of CO, CT, DE, DC, HI, IL, KS, LA, ME, MD, MA, MT, NE, NJ, NM, OH, PA, UT or WI.

Cost to prepare a state tax return: $17.95.

Help and Support Features:

  • Online support by submitting an in-product support request
  • Email support
  • FAQs

First Impression of the Software:

Be sure to read the first page ("General Instructions") slowly and word-by-word. I had skipped over this page, skimming it only briefly, in my first rush through the program. On logging in again, I realized this page describes how the 1040now system is set up and what the steps are.

There's no option to send 1099-MISC income to line 21 other income. Even though the instructions permit us to report hobby income reported on 1099 on line 21.

The sequence of Sch C-EZ followed by Schedule C was odd. Worksheet looked long, and nothing was marked as required. I didn't know what to do. Was the income from the 1099-MISC already transferred here? I put in the income amount anyway. When I clicked next, there was a page looking almost exactly the same. It took careful attention to figure out this second page was for Schedule C whereas the previous page was for Schedule C-EZ. (This, my friends, tries one's patience.)

Then there was a "click here" on the Schedule D page that is not linked. Probably doesn’t exist or not supported? Or perhaps it's not ready yet? Oh. You have to "click" to place a check mark in the box, which then (after clicking next) takes you to the page to add a Schedule D. The box was placed just far enough away from the "click here" that I didn't see it at first.

There are two almost identical Schedule D pages: one right after the other. On closer inspection, the first is for short-term and the second is for long-term. Seriously? And look at the input worksheet: just looking at it makes me feel tired. And I'm a tax accountant.

The bottom line: pages can look deceptively identical to each other, which means it can be easy to overlook something, or you might think you already worked on this page, or you might get confused why the software is asking you for the same information again. I recommend you try a different free file software.

But if you want to check out the software for yourself, visit 1040NOW.net Free File Edition.