The Best Free Tax Software

What Do You Really Get for Free?

We compared the top free tax software to find out what each one offers and how they compare. Explore the details below to see if one of these services could help you get your taxes done conveniently—and for free.

All software listed make similar promises when it comes to accuracy and refunds, but it's important to check the fine print to ensure 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—you might have to pay, but the extra services may be worth the cost.

H&R Block Free Online

Woman doing taxes

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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. H&R Block boasts that its free version accepts more complicated income sources, including unemployment income Form 1099-G, than competitors like TurboTax.
Pros:

  • 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

Cons:

  • 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.
Pros:

  • 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

Cons:

  • Doesn't offer investment income filing
  • No photo import option for W-2 income data
  • Noncash charitable donations and life-kind changes aren't included in free software

IRS Free File

You can file your taxes directly with the IRS by using e-File, or you can use the IRS Free File program to find a free tax filing option. 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.
Pros:

  • Provides access to multiple tax filing software for free
  • Free state filing (depending on your income level and the offer you choose)

Cons:

  • There are gross income limits to many of the free filing deals, and if you earn too much you may only qualify for a much simpler service.
  • If you don't qualify for the best options, you may end up having to fill out forms yourself and do some calculations to determine the appropriate answers.

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.
Pros:

  • 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

Cons:

  • Limited support
  • Only covers basic W-2 income and 1040 returns

TurboTax Free Edition

TurboTax Online Free Edition has some decent tax help features. It has an easy-to-use interface and includes unlimited free help from a tax adviser.
Pros:

  • 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

Cons:

  • 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 the paid services are more expensive than some competitors on this list.

Article Sources

  1. Internal Revenue Service. "Free File: Do Your Federal Taxes Online for Free." Accessed Oct. 20, 2020.