If you’ve ever used Turbotax, Tax Act, or H&R Block, then chances are you know how expensive filing your taxes can be. They lure you in with promises of free tax return filing. But the moment a complication arises -- claiming an exemption, for example -- the “free” part goes away.
It’s a bait and switch. And that sucks.
Fortunately, there are a lot of great tax filing options that are really free, even if you’re self-employed, have investment income, or rent out your spare bedroom. Here are the most popular, easiest-to-use options that are free.
Like, honest to goodness free.
Credit Karma Tax
Credit Karma, the same site that offers free credit reports and monitoring, has a popular free tax filing tool. It’s legitimately free, no matter how complicated your filing situation is.
It’s really easy to use, too. Credit Karma walks you through your taxes with a simple interview-style process. Just answer a few simple questions -- for example, did you get married this year? -- and it’ll fill out all the forms you need automatically.
The best feature, though, is its compatibility. If you used H&R Block, TurboTax or Tax Act to file your taxes last year, Credit Karma has an option to import this data. It makes switching a snap.
There’s a pretty big catch to Credit Karma, though: There’s not a lot of support if something goes wrong. If you get audited, you’re on your own. And that’s scary as hell.
Free Tax USA
Before there was Credit Karma, there was Free Tax USA. It’s one of the most popular free e-filing programs out there, available directly from freetaxusa.com.
People love it because it supports common tax situations that some “free” software charges you for, such as claiming income from dividends or Health Savings Account (HSA) contributions. Like Credit Karma, Free Tax USA allows you to import last year’s data from TurboTax and other paid software providers.
One standout feature is the ability to file late tax returns, up to seven years back. It’s fantastic if you’ve missed a year (or seven) and don’t know what to do. Free Tax USA doesn’t judge.
You are warned, however: E-filing your state taxes is not free. There’s a $12.95 upcharge for that. Free Tax USA offers audit support and allows you to amend your return once you’ve filed, but only if you pay $6.95 for a deluxe upgrade.
...or just download what you need directly from the IRS
If you don’t want to trust your personal data with a third party, you can always just download the forms you need directly from the Internal Revenue Service website. You just fill in the numbers, and print it out when you’re done.
You’ll need to do the math yourself, and you’ll need to hunt down the state tax forms you need separately. It’s pretty much the old-fashioned way of doing your taxes.
That said, it’s totally free. And if you’re worried about going it alone for the first time, there are IRS agents on call to answer any questions you have about filling it out.