What is Free File?

Free Online Tax Preparation and e-file

Learn more about free online tax software and free efile from Free File.
••• IRS.gov

Introduced in 2003, Free File is a program created by the Internal Revenue Service in partnership with a number of online tax software providers to provide free income tax preparation.

If you don't qualify for Free File or don't want to use it, there are many other free tax software options.

The Free File program has two options: online tax software from a Free File Alliance partner, or Free File Fillable Forms. Both options include federal e-File at no cost.

Free File Tax Software

The free tax software is provided by many familiar companies, like Intuit TurboTax and H&R Block, and some providers offer state income tax software as well (but it may not be free). The income limit for qualifying for Free File is set by each provider, so the IRS provides a quick survey to determine what tax software you can use at no cost. As of 2018, tax software is available for incomes up to $66,000 from Free File, and there are as many as 12 different software providers to choose from depending on your specific tax circumstances.

Fillable Forms

Free File Fillable Forms is available to anyone, regardless of income level. Fillable Forms presents IRS tax forms on your computer display, and the forms are completed online. This option doesn't walk you through preparing taxes like tax software does, but it does basic math calculations and allows you to e-file your return at no cost. Free File Fillable Forms does not support state forms.

Eligibility Requirements

The eligibility requirements for using the Free File program vary from year-to-year, and you may not qualify every year. As of 2018, you must meet these criteria:

  • You must have an Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) of $66,000 or less to use Traditional Free File, with no income requirement to use fill-in form e-file.
  • Tax software providers in the Free File program can set some of their own requirements for allowing you to use their free software. For example, some providers may require that your AGI be less than the IRS requirement. If the tax software provider mentions no AGI, assume the IRS rules apply.
  • Some providers have an age range or are only available to certain states or to military personnel (there are other free tax software options for military members).
  • Once you choose a tax software title through the IRS Free File website, be sure you only access the tax software website through the IRS site to avoid being charged for your tax return. Once you click on the tax software website, you'll see a notice that you are leaving the IRS site, and you can proceed from there.
  • Not all tax software providers offer free state returns with e-File, so be aware of fees if you wish to use the software to prepare state income taxes. You may be able to use free tax software offered directly through your state.
  • Some providers offer an extension at no cost if you don't complete your tax return on time.
  • If you see ads in the software used through Free File, you are under no obligation to buy anything. The IRS stipulates that free tax software providers in the Free File program not include ads that nag you to upgrade to a paid version, so this shouldn't be an issue.