Direct File: 4 States Offer Online Tax Return Filing

Free State Tax Filing in California and Other States

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A handful of states, including California, offer their own tax software programs on their websites that allow taxpayers to complete their returns and file them free of charge. Other options also exist for free -- or almost free -- preparation and filing.   

States With Online Tax Return Software

At least four states allow taxpayers to prepare and submit their state tax returns on their websites:

  • California has two online tax preparation tools, CalFile and ReadyReturn. ReadyReturn is a program that uses your W-2s and prior year's tax returns to create a pre-filled California return. This program is for taxpayers who have wages from only one employer and are filing as single or head of household. CalFile is not pre-filled. For 2015 returns, it is open to taxpayers of all filing statuses with federal adjusted gross incomes of up to $178,706 if you're single or married and filing a separate return. The limit increases to $268,063 for those filing as head of household, and $357,417 if you're married and filing a joint return. You must have lived in California the entire year and you can claim no more than 10 dependents. 
    • Maine offers FastFile and 1040 I-File, a tax preparation and e-file program for taxpayers with relatively simple returns. You can enter your information and the program will calculate your return. If you owe, you can pay electronically or request to delay your payment. If you're entitled to a refund, you'll receive it by direct deposit. 
    • Massachusetts has a program called WebFile for both individuals and businesses.
    • Pennsylvania offers padirectfile, but your return must be pretty basic to use it. You're not eligible if you're intending to claim a resident tax credit or if your income derives from farming. 

    Although they're not run by individual states, two websites also offer free state returns if you meet certain lower income requirements. United Way offers for state returns, as does OnLine Taxes

    Other Filing Options 

    Many tax preparation software packages include free state returns.

    You may have to pay to prepare your federal return, but your state return is often included at no extra charge. Additionally, some of these programs are free for basic, uncomplicated returns for taxpayers with federal adjusted gross incomes of $62,000 a year or less as of the 2015 tax year. 

    efile offers state tax return preparation and filing for $19.95 as of calendar year 2016, but you can prepare as many returns as necessary.

    Due to recent tax law changes, you can only efile a return through this site if you also efile a federal return, but you're free to print out your completed return or returns and mail them in. 

    More and more states are jumping on the technology bandwagon daily. It's cheaper for them, cutting administrative costs, and it's easier for you. This information shares just some of what is available for 2015 tax returns. Check directly with your state's Department of Revenue website for additional information -- you might be pleasantly surprised.