3 Ways to File Your State Taxes for Free

In the 41 states where state income tax is collected, you must file a state tax return along with your federal tax return. 

The good news is, if you use tax software to prepare your federal return, filing your state returns is as easy as checking an extra box. The bad news is that it's often expensive to file your state taxes this way. Even if you use free tax software for your federal return, adding state returns can tack on as much as $40 in extra fees.

However, there are a few ways to save on fees when filing state taxes.

Go Straight to the State

Many states offer a way to file taxes directly through their state website or e-file system. Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Wisconsin all offer some way for qualified residents to file through the state.

Residents of the remaining states and Washington, D.C. may be able to file for free via state-provided forms or through their state's partnership with the Free File Alliance.

Use IRS Free File

The Free File Alliance is a partnership between states and tax software vendors that allows for free e-filing of federal taxes. It allows for e-filing state taxes, too, although a fee may apply.

Not everyone qualifies for IRS Free File. As of December 2019, you can use Free File software if your adjusted gross income (AGI) is $69,000 or less. If your AGI is more than that, you can use Free File Fillable Forms.

Also, while the federal return is free under this program, state returns may not be, although they could be offered at a reduced price. 

You can visit Free File's "get started" page to begin, or use the Free File Software Lookup Tool to find what software is available to you.

According to the IRS, the Free File partner vendors will provide free state tax return services to the following states:

  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • District of Columbia
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia

Get a Discount on Software

Tax software providers may offer free state filing for U.S. military members and reservists, or for taxpayers with very simple returns.

Certain conditions may apply for a taxpayer to receive free tax filing. For example, Tax Slayer has free options for both state and federal returns, but only for 1040 returns that claim only the standard deduction (that means no itemizations), Earned Income Tax Credit, and Child Tax Credit. Those are the same claims that Turbo Tax will permit for free state tax filing, though Turbo Tax allows for W-2 income, as well.

H&R Block permits free state tax filing for taxpayers with an AGI of $69,000 or less and who are active-duty military, between the ages of 17 and 51, or qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Even if your state offers free e-filing directly, these services may be a more convenient option for those who qualify. The software will automatically populate your state form with data from your federal form, saving you time.

Finally, services such as Credit Karma Tax offer free state filing without a minimum AGI requirement. However, not all states permit Credit Karma Tax as an authorized e-filing vendor.