Tax Season is upon us! I'm compiling all of our documents for the accountant now. We haven't filed our own returns since starting my business. My business taxes can be complicated as an LLC that files as an S-Corp, we have gone to a local CPA for years and it's prevented a lot of headaches! Our boys, on the other hand, have been filing their returns online since they've earned a paycheck.
Once our boys started to work, they had their pappy file their taxes! My father-in-law was a retired CFO and the go-to for not only our boys, but so many other people. He always helped people file their taxes for free. Or, at least our boys didn't pay anything so maybe pap used his own credit card to pay for any filing fees.
Sadly, my father-in-law passed away unexpectedly in August, 2021. Since he always filed the boys' returns, we nearly forgot to file the next year. We remembered at the last minute and my husband was able to file the returns for them. Thankfully the boys' returns were very basic returns so it didn't take long.
Online Tax Filing For Free
This year will be the first year that we have a new person in the family filing the boys' returns. Our oldest son has received the promotion to “free” family tax return guy. He graduated with a degree in accounting last year so he should be able to do this easily…I think. Maybe one day he can have a go at my complicated business taxes. Baby steps.
As they've been getting W-2's in the mail we have been talking about the free or super cheap filing options to complete and file the return. There are several legitimate services to file online that are completely free. Some of them have salary caps, which our boys fall within. If you have a simple tax return, these options may work for you too.
Documents Needed to File Taxes
Before you start to file anything, you will want to have lots of paperwork pulled together to make it go as smooth as possible. Enter your email address in the form above and I'll send you my tax preparation checklist free. This will help you know what documents you'll need as you're working on your return.
Before I say anything about the filing options, just remember that the most important thing is that you file your taxes on time OR that you file an extension. That's THE most important thing. OK, let's get into it.
IRS Free Online Tax Filing
The IRS has a free tax preparation program called Free File. This program is a great way to file your taxes for free, as it provides access to all the features and benefits of the tax preparation software without having to pay a dime.
There is an income stipulation to be eligible to use the service for free though. Your adjusted gross income (AGI) must be $73,000 or less. Our boys fall within this income requirement for last year.
The IRS partners with various tax prep and software companies part of the Free File Alliance. Some of those companies are listed below in this post. There is no charge to use the Free File software to file your return with companies in the alliance.
BUT (there's always a BUT) any tax preparation, guidance or assistance most likely WILL cost you a fee. This is important to mention because if you get confused on any questions on the return, you won't have a resource to ask unless you pay for that service/tier (or google it). With a basic return though, that may not be necessary.
Free Online Tax Filing H&R Block
As mentioned above, H&R Block participates in the Free File program with the IRS. It's super easy to create an account at H&R Block and file your return. Just make sure your income is $73,000 or less or you will have to pay for the service.
Again, this option is best for someone with simple tax returns. The software guides you through the return, does all the calculations and will generate the tax return for you. Once your return is complete, you can file it electronically for free in your account.
Other Services to File Taxes Online for Free
As I mentioned, there are several companies that offer a free filing option since they are part of the Free File Alliance with the IRS. This list isn't exhaustive. However, I am only highlighting the companies that we would consider for our own returns (or, in this case my son since he's the tax return guy now).
Each company likely has a higher tier that has a price attached. As of the time this gets published, all the links will either go to their Free File, free tier or a general page with all the filing options available.
Just make sure you select the free option when you create an account online. Since I'll be reminding our son of this, I wanted to mention it to you too. He will ultimately decide which one to use and if he feels like he needs to pay for the higher tier (I'm sure he will have his little brothers pay him just like they pay him for the shared HBA account). Some of them do offer record storage as part of that fee so it may be worthwhile since the information is kept encrypted online (that's a nice benefit my CPA offers too).
Mailing Federal Tax Returns
Yes, this option still exists in case anyone has wanted to do it. The IRS has forms in a fillable format so it's easier to enter all of the information before you send it in via snail mail. You can find those forms here. This option is going to take longer if you have a return due so keep that in mind.
Free Online Tax Filing for States
Many states have a program that allows you to file on the state website. Again, this is for basic returns. We live in Ohio and the state has a program called I-File.
In my research for this post, I saw that most states offer something similar too. Visit your state's website to find details and see if your state has a similar option.
Filing Your City Taxes
Similar to your state, you will want to go to your city website and download any forms. Our city doesn't have an electronic option for filing so we have to do a paper form and send them snail mail. They do have office hours for people to come in and they will prepare or review the returns for residents for free, so that's nice.
I've actually completed a city tax return before (for our oldest son). It was *mostly* straight forward, and the only confusion was because our city just has some odd tax things, including credits, that I missed. You'll most likely need copies of your W-4 when you submit your city return too.
IRS VITA Program
I wanted to mention this program in this post since it offers free tax help and e-file assistance for taxpayers. VITA stands for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and to be eligible taxpayers must meet one of the following requirements:
- AGI of $60,000 or less,
- Persons with disabilities and
- Limited English-speaking taxpayers.
In addition to VITA, a program called Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) offers free tax help to people 60 years of age and older. They also specializing in questions about pensions and retirement-related issues in case you know someone who could benefit from this program.
Here is more information on the IRS website about these programs.
Tax Deadline to File
The federal tax deadline for 2023 is April 18. It will be here before you know it!