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File Your Taxes Online for Free With Adjusted Gross Income of $56,000 or Less

There are a number of online tax software advertisements that tell you that you can file your federal tax return for free.  You sign up for an account, fill in all the information to file your taxes and find out at the end that you have to pay to file, or pay to use the software, and there is nothing more frustrating than spending a couple hours preparing your taxes (thinking you can file for free) only to find out you've got to pay to complete it!

What many of these sites fail to mention is that the federal filing is free only if your adjusted gross income is less than $56,000.  This is the standard amount, although if the amount is different from this number, the site should indicate that before you begin the process of preparing your paperwork to be filed.

The IRS has put together a list of links to websites offering free tax preparation and e-filing services through The Free File program.  This program “provides free federal income tax preparation and electronic filing for eligible taxpayers through a partnership between the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Free File Alliance LLC, a group of private sector tax software companies”.

Keep in mind though, that the online preparation software does not have to offer all available forms in order to give you free preparation and e-filing, so check with the company to make sure you'll have all of the forms you require to file your taxes available to you.  You also shouldn't expect to file both federal and state for free, as most companies offering free federal e-file charge for state filing.

In an effort to help you select the best online tool for preparing and filing your income tax return, the IRS has also set up a quick form.  The answers you provide on the form will help the IRS determine which free tax filing software might work best for your situation, considering the forms you will require, your adjusted gross income, age and where you live. 

If the idea of preparing your tax forms through tax software is a bit outside what you are comfortable with, the other option for e-filing is to use free fillable forms that look like blank IRS forms.  You select the type of return you need to file (1040, 1040A or 1040EZ) and fill in the numbers on the online form just as you would if you were handwriting them on a paper form. The form will do basic calculations for you, eliminating mathematical errors and there are no limitations for your income in order to use these forms.  Once you fill in the forms, you can file your federal tax return online.  The free fillable forms do not include state forms or state e-filing services, so you would need to do those separately.

If you owe money for your return, you can use a variety of methods to make that payment when e-filing.  You can have the money automatically debited from your bank account for no additional fee, or mail a check or money order at no cost.  Some payment methods will charge you an additional fee, such as paying your taxes with a credit card – but the system you use to prepare and file your taxes will let you know what the fees are and which payment methods result in an additional fee.


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