IRS Free File can save families, especially those with children, some money in 2020 plus find tax benefits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit. Free File is now available at IRS.gov/FreeFile.
Since its 2003 debut, Free File has served nearly 57 million taxpayers, saving them $1.7 billion using a very conservative $30 preparation fee. Young families with children are key beneficiaries of Free File, the public-private partnership between the IRS and 10 online tax preparation software providers.
“Free File can save young families money. It offers free software, free electronic filing and free direct deposit which is the fastest way to get a refund,” said Ken Corbin, commissioner of IRS’ Wage and Investment division.
Whether single or married, the taxpayers’ 2019 adjusted gross income must be $69,000 or less to be eligible for free online tax preparation through Free File. Free File can help families find the tax credits and deduction they are due such as EITC. By answering a few questions, taxpayers can find out if they’re eligible for EITC and other family-related tax benefits.
The IRS will begin processing tax returns on Jan. 27. Most refunds are issued within 21 days. With Free File, you can even use any digital device, personal computer, tablet or smart phone. Free File products are mobile enabled so you can do your taxes on your smart phone or tablet and e-File with your hand-held device.
Here’s how Free File works:
- Go to IRS.gov/FreeFile to see all Free File options.
- Browse each of the 10 offers or use a “look up” tool to help you find the right product. Each Free File partner sets its own eligibility standards generally based on income, age and state residency. But if your adjusted gross income was $69,000 or less, you will find at least one free product to use. Two products are in Spanish.
- Select a provider and follow the links to their web page to begin your tax return.
- Complete and e-File your tax return only if you have all the income and deduction records you need. The fastest way to get a refund is by filing electronically and selecting direct deposit. If you owe, use direct pay or electronic options.
You do not have to be EITC eligible in order to qualify for Free File. Any individual or married couple that meets the income limitation can qualify. First-time filers or college students are key users. Military personnel who meet the income requirement can use any of nine partner products. And seniors who want to file the new Form 1040-SR because they are over 65 and taking the standard deduction also can use Free File.
Remember, if you meet the income requirement you will find at least one free online product. To avoid fees for state tax returns, look for a partner that offers free state tax return preparation or check out your state’s tax agency website to see if they are members of the State Free File program.
Know the protections under the IRS Free File program. They include:
- Get a free federal tax return - As long as you qualify for the Free File federal return offer, you must not be charged for preparation and e-filing of a federal tax return.
- Be protected from unnecessary fees - Other than state tax preparation fees and a possible fee if you choose to continue with tax preparation when you don’t qualify for the federal return offer, you must not be offered or solicited marketing, promotional rebates, or any other form of selling activity on the Free File company’s website. Any state preparation or non-qualifying fees must be disclosed on the company’s Free File landing page.
- Be guided in your choices - If you find you don’t qualify for a specific company’s Free File offer after visiting their Free File website, you may return to the IRS.gov Free File website to seek another Free File online offer. Each Free File company will provide you information when you don’t qualify, with the option to select a link to bring you back to IRS.gov Free File site to select another company.
- Get help if you need it - If you need help when you are on the company’s Free File website and doing your taxes, you may refer to the company’s free customer service options.
- Be reminded of Free File - If you used Free File last year, you should receive an email from the same company product that you used, welcoming you back to Free File. The email should include a link to the company’s Free File online program and explain how to file with the program.
- Be protected from bank product fees - As part of Free File, you must not be offered any bank products such as Refund Anticipation Loans or Refund Anticipation Checks.
- Get help finding a free option for you - IRS offers a Free File online Look-up tool to help you find an offer that best meets your needs.
- Get important information on possible charges for state returns - Many Free File online products offer free state tax preparation. Some charge a state fee. Be sure to read each company’s information carefully.
Free File online products will be available from January through October for extension filers. Taxpayers who need to file extensions because they cannot meet the April 15 deadline, also can use Free File regardless of their income.
Free File is just one way the IRS provides free tax preparation options to taxpayers. Taxpayers wanting more personal help can visit one of thousands of community volunteer sites through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program or Tax Counseling for the Elderly offered by AARP. Trained volunteers will prepare returns for free for taxpayers whose income was $56,000 or less.
Free File is available through October.