IRS Free File for Tax Season 2024: How It Works, Who’s Eligible and Is It Actually Free?

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The 2024 tax filing season is almost here. Filing season kicks off in just two days, on Jan. 29 to be specific. Whether you started preparing your tax return early so you can file right away on Monday or you’re just now getting started with your return, you might want to check out this IRS program allows millions of Americans to file their federal tax returns for free. And you can get started right now.

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IRS Free File is a partnership between the IRS and seven of the country’s biggest online tax-prep companies. If your adjusted gross income last year was $79,000 or less in 2023, you can use Free File to process and submit a simple return for free. (Some participating companies will even process your state return.)

This story is part of Taxes 2024, CNET’s coverage of the best tax software, tax tips and everything else you need to file your return and track your refund.

Here’s what you need to know about Free File, including who qualifies for it, what it can do and what you’ll need to use it.

What is IRS Free File?

IRS Free File is a nonprofit partnership between the IRS and the Free File Alliance, a group of commercial tax-prep companies that have agreed to process and file federal returns electronically at no charge. (Some may also offer free state returns.) 

If you use Free File, you’ll be directed to one of these companies’ sites to complete your return with step-by-step instructions.

  • 1040Now
  • Drake (1040.com)
  • ezTaxReturn.com (offers both English and Spanish)
  • FileYourTaxes.com
  • On-Line Taxes
  • TaxAct
  • TaxHawk (FreeTaxUSA)
  • TaxSlayer

Note that Intuit Turbo Tax withdrew from the program in 2021.

Who qualifies for IRS Free File?

Participating tax-preparation providers set their own eligibility rules, but individuals whose adjusted gross income, or AGI, was $73,000 or less in 2023 will likely find an offer for which they qualify.

The system is only set up to process relatively simple returns.

If you make more than $79,000, the IRS still provides fillable forms to let you file your federal taxes online, although there is no step-by-step guidance.

How does IRS Free File work?

The Free File program can answer basic questions, perform calculations and file your federal return with the IRS.

“Our software offers step-by-step help to get your federal taxes done quickly, safely, securely and at absolutely no cost,” Free File Alliance director Tim Hugo said in a statement. 

You can access the program on your computer, smartphone or tablet. It cannot be done in person or through the mail. In addition, Free File can’t be used to submit returns for any year prior to 2023.

To file with IRS Free File, you’ll need:

  • Income statements (W2s, 1099s, etc.).
  • Social Security numbers for you and any relevant spouse or dependents.
  • Your 2021 tax return to access your Adjusted Gross Income.

Once you have your documentation, follow these steps: 

1. Go to the IRS Free File website.

2. Click the Use Free Guided Tax Preparation button. Then hit Find Your Trusted Partner tool to find an offer for the right product for you. Alternatively, you can use the Browse All Trusted Partners tool to review each offer.

3. Select the best product.

4. Follow the links to the provider’s website to begin your tax return. 

Is IRS Free File really free?

According to the IRS, you can’t be asked to buy any products or services in exchange for having a federal tax return prepared by a participant in the Free File program.

You may be charged to file a state return.

For more tax tips
, discover what to do if you haven’t received your W-2, learn about tax credits for homeowners and get the lowdown on the best tax software for 2024. 



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