There are numerous ways to file your taxes for free, especially if you meet certain income requirements or have a simple tax return (meaning you're filing Form 1040 and claiming standard deductions).

Some programs are sponsored by the IRS, while others are provided by top tax software companies.

You might not get everything you would from a paid platform or tax professional — and most of these options are limited to certain filers. But if you qualify and can find what you need, why not take advantage?

After all, isn't enough of your money going to Uncle Sam?

Free online tax software

Tax software companies do a great job of simplifying the filing process, offering guided assistance and the ability to upload tax documents and previous years' returns. Many offer free tiers for simple returns, though they typically have limited features and support.

With TurboTax's basic tier you can report W-2 income, some interest and dividends, child tax credits, the Earned Income Tax Credit and deductions for student loan interest. According to TurboTax, about 37% of filers qualify to use its basic tier for free.

You'll want TurboTax Deluxe, though, to itemize your deductions or report income from rental properties, self-employment, stock sales or unemployment. (Read our review of TurboTax to learn more.)

TurboTax

Learn More
On TurboTax's secure site
  • Cost

    Costs may vary depending on the plan selected - click "Learn More" for details

  • Free version

    TurboTax Free Edition. ~37% of taxpayers qualify. Form 1040 + limited credits only.

  • Mobile app

    Yes

  • Live support

    Available with some pricing and filing options

Click here for TurboTax offer details and disclosures. Terms apply.

H&R Block also has a free tier for simple returns that's a good option if you're a W-2 employee or student, reporting income from unemployment insurance or claiming the child tax credit. (Read our review of H&R Block to learn more.)

H&R Block

Learn More
On H&R Block's secure site
  • Cost

    Costs may vary depending on the plan selected (Free Online, Deluxe, Premium, or Self-Employed) - click "Learn More" for details

  • Free version

    Yes (for simple returns only)

  • Mobile app

    Yes

  • Live support

    Available with some pricing and filing options

Terms apply.

While both TurboTax and H&R Block are among CNBC Select's top-rated tax software programs, their free versions won't process complicated tax filings. So make sure you qualify first and don't end up getting redirected to a paid tier.

FreeTaxUSA, however, accepts tax forms other no-cost options don't — including itemized deductions, income from investments and HSA contributions. Federal filing is free, while state returns are $14.99 each.

If you need more help, there's a $14.99 deluxe tier with live chat and unlimited amendments, and a $49.99 pro level with personalized advice from a tax pro and help on both state and federal returns. (Read CNBC Select's review of FreeTaxUSA for more details.)

FreeTaxUSA

Learn More
On FreeTaxUSA's secure site
  • Cost

    $0 federal, $14.99 state

  • Mobile app

    Yes

  • Tax expert support

    Yes, costs extra

Terms apply.

Cash App Taxes is one of the only providers that processes both federal and state taxes for free, with no upselling or rerouting to paid tiers for more complex returns. As a tradeoff, there's no live help available if you have a question.

Cash App Taxes (formerly Credit Karma Tax)

Learn More
On Cash App's secure site
  • Cost

    $0 federal and state

  • Free version

    Yes

  • Mobile app

    Yes

  • Tax expert support

    No

IRS Free File

IRS Free File is a no-cost online service for filers with an adjusted gross income of $79,000 or less in 2023. The IRS has partnered with eight tax prep sites, including TaxSlayer and FreeTaxUSA, and you can choose which to work with based on your income, age, location and filing needs. (Some partners also offer free state filing.)

This is an opportunity many people overlook: About 70% of Americans qualified for IRS Free File in 2022, according to the Taxpayer Advocate, but only 2% actually used it.

Even if you meet the income requirements, Free File might not have the forms you need. There's also not much support to help you maximize your refund or minimize your tax liability.

What if I don't meet the income requirement?

If you don't meet the income requirement for Free File, you can still use the site's fillable forms. There's no guidance and only limited calculations, but you can still fill out the free electronic forms using IRS instructions. This option doesn't include any state tax preparation.

IRS Direct File

In 2023, the IRS launched Direct File, a pilot program for filing a federal tax return online directly with the agency. Currently, Direct File is open to qualified taxpayers in Arizona, California, Florida, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Wyoming.

To qualify, you must be a W-2 employee, receive Social Security or unemployment insurance or have investment income of less than $1,500. You must also have a Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number and a valid state ID or passport.

Direct File can be used to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, but not many other credits. You also can't itemize deductions or report additional income, like capital gains or money from gig work or rental properties.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program provides free in-person tax preparation to people with an AGI of $60,000 or less, with disabilities or with limited English skills.

You will need to visit an office in person and may need to make an appointment. (You can find a provider near you here.)

Tax Counseling for the Elderly

Another IRS-backed program, Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) funds nonprofit and community efforts that provide free tax preparation for filers 60 and older. Trained volunteers will help prepare simple returns and can answer retirement-related questions. (Some locations also offer self-filing options.)

Check the IRS website or AARP Tax-Aide site locator tool to find a TCE-affiliated location in your area or call 888-227-7669.

MilTax

Sponsored by the Department of Defense, MilTax is a tax software program for U.S. servicemembers, veterans and their families, with details on how to file in multiple states, how to report deployment and combat pay, and more. Eligible filers can electronically submit a federal return and up to three state returns free of charge.

Bottom line

There are lots of ways to file your taxes for free, whether that's with the IRS or a commercial tax software company. Free isn't always the best choice, however. If your return will be more complicated — if you sold your house last year, for example, or have freelance income to report — you may need to spring for a paid tax service.

Premium tiers also usually have more in the way of live support and features to ensure you're maximizing deductions. Many also offer audit support, accuracy assurance and maximum refund guarantees, which can give you peace of mind during the hectic tax season.

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At CNBC Select, our mission is to provide our readers with high-quality service journalism and comprehensive consumer advice so they can make informed decisions with their money. Every tax guide is based on rigorous reporting by our team of expert writers and editors with extensive knowledge of tax services. While CNBC Select earns a commission from affiliate partners on many offers and links, we create all our content without input from our commercial team or any outside third parties, and we pride ourselves on our journalistic standards and ethics.

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