There’s a secret to filing your tax return that you might not know about. It takes away the headache of filing taxes by hand and let’s you submit your taxes for free. It’s called Free File. Maybe you’ve heard of it before, but it’s unlikely that you’ve used it.
Maybe you’ve heard of it before, but it’s unlikely that you’ve used it. According to The Wall Street Journal, less than 3% of eligible taxpayers are using this software.
So, why don’t more people use it? For one, many haven’t heard of it. Plus, there are a few rules for using it. That’s why we’ve written this post to make filing taxes for free easier.
If you know or think that you qualify for the IRS Free File program, here’s an FAQ sheet about taking advantage of the software’s savings.
What software can you use for free?
Free File lets you use software from many popular name-brand tax return filing software options, including TurboTax, H&R Block, TaxACT, and more. Using technology to file your tax return means you can get it done faster and more accurately than attempting to fill in forms by hand.
Skeptical? According to The Wall Street Journal, these companies offer software for free in exchange for a promise from the IRS not to offer free, competing software. So if you can take advantage of the program, it’s a good deal.
How do you qualify?
In general, any Free File user needs to have an annual adjusted gross income (AGI) of less than $60,000.
The program’s AGI is adjusted every year to allow approximately 70% of Americans to participate. Americans who qualify can use tax software like TurboTax and other popular brands you’ve heard of.
Just keep in mind: each software has individual requirements that you’ll need to check on before starting your return.
What about state tax returns?
Many states also have a Free File option. Right now, the count’s up to 21 states and Washington, D.C.
If your state offers a Free File option, then it typically makes sense to start on the state’s website to see if you qualify. The most convenient option would be to file both your state and federal taxes using the same software so that you don’t have to enter information twice.
Even if your state doesn’t offer a Free File program, most software options that let you file a federal return for free will charge only a small fee for filing your state return, too.
How does Free File tie into Obamacare?
This year is the first that taxpayers will have to file forms related to their health insurance coverage as part of Obamacare. Instead of letting this extra work stress you out, use Free File software to guide you through the process.
For one, it isn’t very complicated. The IRS says, “Most people will simply have to check a box to report health care coverage for the entire year.”
If you didn’t have health care as required by law, any penalties will be factored into your tax return as determined by your Free File software.
What do you need to watch out for?
If you’re not careful, then your free return can end up not being free without warning.
Whenever the software asks if you want to add extra features or participate in additional services, check for asterisks and read the footnotes. You may be enrolling in software at a cost and won’t be asked to pay until you’re ready to file your return.
You’ll also need to be sure to follow instructions regarding where you need to begin your return. Many providers say that you must click the link to the federal or state Free File site to get started. If you begin by going straight to the software’s site from Google, then you may be ineligible even if you try to opt in later.
What’s the best way to get started?
Typically, you should start at the IRS website.
First, check the bottom of this page to see if your state has a Free File program. If it does, then head to your state’s Free File page by selecting it from the dropdown list on the left.
If your state isn’t listed, then proceed through the IRS Free File listings starting on this page.
From there, sign up and use the tax software as you normally would. While we hope you get a refund this year, keep in mind you can use Evolve Money to pay municipal taxes in many metropolitan areas, including New York City, Houston, Orange and San Mateo Counties in California and more.
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