Tax season can be stressful — and expensive — to complete before the filing deadline of April 15. Luckily, there are many free and low-cost resources available to get the job done without a hefty price tag. Read on for the important dates you need to know for tax season, as well as a listing of some of the cheapest places to file.
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WHEN IS TAX SEASON?
Tax season officially kicked off on January 29 when the IRS started accepting and processing tax returns. According to the IRS, for most taxpayers, the deadline to file their personal federal tax return, pay any tax owed or request an extension to file their taxes is Monday, April 15, 2024.
If you live in Maine or Massachusetts, the deadline is April 17, 2024–and that’s due to the Patriot’s Day and Emancipation Day holidays. In addition, if a taxpayer resides in a federally declared disaster area, you may have extra time to file.
HOW TO FILE TAXES FOR CHEAP WITH A SIMPLE TAX SITUATION
Now that you know the important dates to mark on your calendar this tax season, it’s time to start making moves to find a cheap (or free) way to file. Several tax software companies offer free tax filing for people with simple tax returns, including:
All of these places let you file free federal and state returns as long as you have a simple tax return. How each software company defines a “simple tax return” differs, but generally, simple tax returns include W-2 income, as well as claim the standard deduction, Earned Income Tax Credit, and Child Tax Credit. Those with more complex returns will have to pay for a more souped-up version.
HOW TO FILE TAXES IF YOU MADE $79,000 OR LESS IN 2023
The IRS Free File program is a partnership between the IRS and the Free File Alliance, a non-profit organization. Tax filing services via the Free File program are available to taxpayers who have an Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) of $79,000 or less.
If you’re one of the 70% of taxpayers who qualify, then you can file your state and federal taxes for free. Use the Free File Online Lookup Tool to see if you’re eligible and to choose between providers. Keep in mind that some states may charge a separate fee for e-filing. However, you can always print out your return and mail it to avoid the fee. Also, those with an AGI of $79,000 or less are generally eligible, but you’ll want to take a close look at the details, as each provider may have additional criteria you’ll need to meet.
Note, the IRS Free File program is different–and separate from–another IRS program you may have recently heard of called “IRS Direct File.” IRS Direct File is a pilot program launching this year that allows filers in certain states and who meet certain criteria to file their federal taxes online, directly with the IRS. The agency notes that Direct File will be more widely available in mid-March. You can stay up to date here.
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HOW TO FILE TAXES IF YOU NEED IN-PERSON HELP
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA) provides in-person tax preparation by an IRS-certified volunteer at no charge for those who qualify. Usually, that’s people who make less than $64,000 a year, persons with disabilities, those with limited English, or the elderly. To see if you’re eligible click here and to find a provider near you, click here.
HOW TO FILE TAXES WITH A COMPLICATED RETURN
TaxSlayer has a free basic edition for those who have simple returns. But you can also try their other products, ranging from $22.95 to $52.95. TaxSlayer is one of the cheapest places to get taxes done if you have a more complex situation (for instance, you own stock, claim rental property, or you’re self-employed). During any point in the process, you can search TaxSlayer’s “knowledge base” to find questions and answers on all tax topics.
HOW TO FILE TAXES IF YOU’RE IN THE MILITARY
MilTax is a free tax prep and e-filing service designed specifically to address military-related tax issues, such as deployments, combat and training pay, housing and rentals and multistate filing. It comes from the U.S. Department of Defense’s MilitaryOneSource network, which also provides phone, online live chat and face-to-face tax help.
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated for the 2023 tax filing season.