We compared the top free tax software to find out what each one offers and how they compare. Explore the details below to see whether one of these services could help you get your taxes done conveniently—and for free.
All software listed makes similar promises when it comes to accuracy and refunds, but it's important to check the fine print to ensure that none of your personal details will end up triggering an unexpected charge.
For example, some services only offer free tax services for people whose income falls below a set limit. Others only offer one free year of filing, so you'll have to pay more or switch to another service if you used it last year.
Keep an eye on any extra fees for state tax returns as well.
Many services also charge extra for more advanced tax services. If you have a complicated tax situation, you might prefer to check out some of the best overall tax software—even if you have to pay, the extra services may be worth the cost.
H&R Block Free Online
H&R Block Free Online covers many common tax deductions and only occasionally reminds you that you could update to a paid version. Users can ask tax questions in an online chat, and a team of tax professionals will offer help for an additional fee.
H&R Block boasts that its free version accepts more complicated income sources, including unemployment income Form 1099-G, than competitors like TurboTax.
- Real-time refund results
- W-2 photo capture
- A step-by-step guide to completing your taxes
- Advice on common deductions and credits, including the earned income tax credit and the child tax credit
- Must upgrade to paid versions of the software to use DeductionPro, which optimizes the benefits of your charitable donations
- Cannot import 1099-B investment income including cost basis
- Must upgrade for self-employment or small business income support
- Doesn't support simple expenses for freelancers and independent contractors
TaxACT Free Edition
If you're looking for free tax preparation software that accepts a wide range of tax forms, TaxACT Free Edition may be your best bet. This service allows free filers to input information from dozens of different tax forms.
- Supports a wide range of tax forms covering various types of income, credits, and deductions
- Can import information from major tax services like H&R Block and TurboTax
- Doesn't offer investment income filing
- No photo import option for W-2 income data
- Noncash charitable donations and like-kind exchanges aren't included in free software
IRS Free File
This service connects you with tax filing software, simplifying the process of seeking out a deal. Both options provide an easy way to file for free.
- Provides access to multiple tax filing software for free
- Free state filing (depending on your income level and the offer you choose)
- Limits to gross income may mean you earn too much to qualify for use
- Taxpayers with higher incomes may need to fill out forms by hand without software guidance
TaxSlayer SimplyFree Edition
The paid versions of TaxSlayer are worth considering—they're among the cheapest options you'll find, and they cover many tax situations.
However, the TaxSlayer SimplyFree Edition is worth a mention if you're expecting a simple situation. This service also offers special filing perks to military service members.
- Covers student loan interest and education expenses
- Free support via phone and email
- Full-service federal tax returns offered for free to active-duty military personal
- Limited support
- Only covers basic W-2 income and 1040 returns
TurboTax Free Edition
- Offers some tax credits
- Easy to use
- Expedited service for return customers—TurboTax promises to finish 50% of return customers' taxes with a single click
- Most forms are not supported by the free version
- You may be prompted to upgrade to a paid version during the tax filing process, but paid services are more expensive than those of some competitors
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Which tax software is actually free?
All of the options mentioned above will file your taxes for free. People may find that "free" options aren't free, because their tax situations are more complicated than they realized. If you require more complicated services, you may not qualify for a company's free filing option. The IRS offers guided tax preparation for anyone with an adjusted gross income of no more than $73,000.
How do free tax software companies make money?
When your situation is too complicated to qualify for free filing services, you must either pay the tax company for additional services or file taxes yourself. Many people choose the former, allowing the companies to continue offering simple services at no cost to filers.