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How You Can File Federal Taxes for Free Through the IRS

The IRS Free File program is a nonprofit, public-private partnership.

Published Apr 6, 2022

 (Getty Images/Stock photo)
Image Via Getty Images/Stock photo

The 2022 tax season is nearing its filing deadline — extended this year from April 15 to April 18. As the clock ticks closer, the usual time-constrained anxiety to submit the proper paperwork to the IRS comes with it. For those on a tighter budget or time constraint, the tax agency offers a portal for filers to electronically prepare and file federal individual income tax return — for free.

The IRS Free File offers several pathways for U.S. taxpayers to submit their tax documents for free online using guided tax preparation either at an IRS partner site or by filling out forms online for themselves. (Both options are only for federal taxes, though some partners may also offer free or paid state filing options.) The service may only be used to prepare taxes for the current year, as only registered tax preparers can file for the previous two tax years.

IRS Free File is a nonprofit, public-private partnership between the IRS and the Free File Alliance, a coalition of tax preparation and filing companies, to provide free federal tax preparation in two ways.

Guided Tax Preparation for Incomes of $73,000 and Less

Individuals who qualify for the guided tax preparation must have an adjusted gross income (AGI) of $73,000 or less. (AGI is defined as gross income minus adjustments to income, per the IRS). This option connects taxpayers with companies belonging to the Free File Alliance to prepare and file federal taxes online at no cost to qualifying taxpayers.

Using the Free Fillable Form for Incomes Over $73,000

Taxpayers whose adjusted gross income is over $73,000 can use the fillable forms online through the IRS website. These include federal tax forms like 1040 used for individual income tax return. Qualified taxpayers may file these forms themselves using the form instructions and IRS self-help guides available on the website.

How To Get Started

After determining the correct income bracket, taxpayers can choose either the IRS Free File or Free Fillable Forms option.

Taxpayers with an AGI of $73,000 or less can begin the filing process at the IRS.gov website. Going directly to an affiliated company’s website will discredit a user from the free file option. Filers should only use companies verified by the IRS that are linked directly to the website. A redirection link will take the filer to a partner website for account creation. The IRS Free File offer can be viewed in greater detail on the IRS website.

Incomes above $73,000 can use the Free File Fillable Forms option, which requires that taxpayers fill out and file the forms themselves. There is no tax preparation guidance, and only limited calculations are provided. It is recommended that users familiarize themselves with IRS forms, instructions, and publications.

Documents Needed To Prepare and File Taxes

The following documents are required to file annual federal taxes using the free programs, according to the IRS.gov website.

Personal Information

  • A copy of last year's tax return in order to access AGI
  • Valid Social Security numbers, including oneself, spouse, and any dependent, if applicable
  • Income and receipts
  • Social Security benefits
  • Unemployment compensation
  • All receipts pertaining to a small business, if applicable
  • Income receipts from rental, real estate, royalties, partnerships, S corporation, and trusts

Other Income Documentation

  • W-2s showing annual wages from all of employers
  • Form 1099-INT showing interest paid throughout the year
  • Form 1099-G showing any refund, credit or offset of state and local taxes
  • Forms 1099-DIV and 1099-R showing dividends and distributions from retirement and other plans paid during the year

Those Filing with the Affordable Care Act Will Also Need:

Instructions for Filing Electronically

  • When self-preparing taxes and filing electronically, filers must sign and validate their electronic tax return.
  • Verify identity using last year’s AGI or last year’s self-select signature personal identification number (PIN).
  • Have a valid email address so that the IRS may verify it has received the filing.

Securing Personal Data Online

The IRS notes that individual information is protected when it is sent to the IRS or its partner companies, neither of which is allowed to disclose or use tax return information for reasons other than filing taxes. All entities are also subject to Federal Trade Commission Privacy and Safeguards Rules, as well as the IRS e-file regulations

Questions about the IRS Free File Program can be sent to freefile@irs.gov. Users are also encouraged to peruse the User’s Guide. If more time is needed, qualified filers may also ask for an extension to file, pushing back the deadline to Oct. 17, 2022.


Sources:

About the Free File Alliance | Internal Revenue Service. https://www.irs.gov/e-file-providers/about-the-free-file-alliance. Accessed 6 Apr. 2022.

Definition of Adjusted Gross Income | Internal Revenue Service. https://www.irs.gov/e-file-providers/definition-of-adjusted-gross-income. Accessed 6 Apr. 2022.

Free File: Do Your Federal Taxes for Free | Internal Revenue Service. https://www.irs.gov/filing/free-file-do-your-federal-taxes-for-free. Accessed 6 Apr. 2022.

https://www.irs.gov/filing/free-file-do-your-federal-taxes-for-free. Accessed 6 Apr. 2022.

https://www.irs.gov/filing/free-file-do-your-federal-taxes-for-free. Accessed 6 Apr. 2022.

Free File Fillable Forms | Internal Revenue Service. https://www.irs.gov/e-file-providers/free-file-fillable-forms. Accessed 6 Apr. 2022.

IRS Free File | Internal Revenue Service. https://apps.irs.gov/app/freeFile. Accessed 6 Apr. 2022.

Understanding Tax Return Preparer Credentials and Qualifications | Internal Revenue Service. https://www.irs.gov/tax-professionals/understanding-tax-return-preparer-credentials-and-qualifications. Accessed 6 Apr. 2022.

Madison Dapcevich is a former writer for Snopes.

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