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3 Ways to File Your State Taxes for Free

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The majority of U.S. residents are required to file a tax return. In some cases, you can file your state tax return for free using free tax software or other IRS-approved methods.

State income tax is collected in 43 states. Within each of those states, you must file a state tax return along with your federal tax return.

The good news is that filing your state returns is as easy as checking an extra box if you use tax software to prepare your federal return. The bad news is that it's often expensive to file your state taxes this way. And there's a still a chance that there could be extra charges tacked on even if you use free software.

There are a few ways to save on fees when filing state taxes, however. Below, find three helpful strategies for filing taxes with your state in the cheapest way possible.

Key Takeaways

  • There are 43 states where state income tax is collected in addition to your federal tax return.
  • There are many states that offer residents a way to file taxes directly through their e-file systems or state websites.
  • The IRS offers its own way to file taxes for free using Free File Alliance, with lower-income filers prioritized for the program.
  • Some taxpayers can use tax software providers like TaxSlayer and TurboTax for free, including U.S. military members and taxpayers with very simple returns.

Go Straight to the State

Several states offer a way to file taxes directly through their state website or e-file system. Pennsylvania, California, and Massachusetts, for example, offer tax-specific sites, typically through their Department of Revenue.

These programs come with quirks and rules, however, and some states impose restrictions on who can file for free. Residents of more than 20 states and Washington, D.C. are able to file for free through their state's partnership with the Free File Alliance. Taxpayers in the remaining states can file for free via state-provided forms.

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. It's based on income, with lower-income filers prioritized for the program. You can use Free File software for the 2021 tax year (the return you'll file in 2022) if your adjusted gross income (AGI) is $73,000 or less.

You can use Free File Fillable Forms if your AGI is higher than $73,000, but the service doesn't include guidance. It would likely be difficult to use Free File Fillable Forms on your own unless you have some experience in preparing paper tax forms, and these forms don't cover state tax filing.

While the federal return is free under the Free File program, state returns may or may not be. Free File is run through vendor partners, so the details of your experience will depend on the partner you use. State returns are offered for free by some partners. Others might reduce the cost, while still others might charge the full state filing fee that they charge their usual customers outside of the Free File program alliance.

Get a Discount on Software

Tax software providers might offer free state filing for U.S. military members and reservists, or for taxpayers with very simple returns. Certain conditions typically apply for a taxpayer to receive free tax filing.

For example, TaxSlayer has free options for both state and federal returns, but only for basic 1040 returns, and you only get one free state filing, as of 2022. TurboTax will permit free state tax filing, and it can handle slightly more services such as W-2 income, Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), and some dividends and interest payments (1099-INT and 1099-DIV). H&R Block permits free state tax filing for taxpayers with simple returns, and it covers W-2 and EITC situations.

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 and effort.

Finally, Cash App Taxes (formerly Credit Karma Tax) offers free state filing and accepts many different forms, including W-2s, 1095s, 1098s, 1099s, and much more. Cash App Taxes works with all states (and the District of Columbia) except for Montana that impose personal income tax.

If you need more sophisticated tax software, consider these paid options.

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