Filing taxes can be a daunting task, especially when you’re on a budget and can’t afford professional tax preparation services. Fortunately, the IRS has a solution that can help give you some peace of mind – IRS Free File.

In this article, we’ll explore what IRS Free File is, how you can use it, and some of the tax credits and deductions you may be eligible for.

Understanding IRS Free File

Before we dive into the step-by-step guide, let’s take a closer look at what IRS Free File is and how it works.

IRS Free File is a program that was created by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in partnership with various tax preparation software companies. The program is designed to help eligible taxpayers prepare and file their federal tax returns for free, using online software and forms.

One of the biggest advantages of using IRS Free File is that it can save you money on tax preparation fees. Instead of paying a professional tax preparer or purchasing expensive tax software, you can use IRS Free File to complete your taxes at no cost.

What is Adjusted Gross Income (AGI)?

Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) is an important factor in determining your eligibility for IRS Free File. Your AGI is your total income minus certain deductions, such as contributions to a traditional IRA or student loan interest. It’s important to note that your AGI may be different from your taxable income, which is the amount of income that is subject to federal income tax.

If your AGI is $72,000 or less, you may be eligible for IRS Free File. However, it’s important to keep in mind that some Free File providers may have different eligibility criteria, such as age or residency requirements. Be sure to check each provider’s requirements before selecting one.

Participating Free File Providers

There are currently 10 Free File providers participating in the IRS Free File program. These providers offer various levels of support and services, so it’s important to choose the one that best fits your needs.

TurboTax is one of the most popular Free File providers and offers a user-friendly interface that makes it easy to complete your taxes. H&R Block is another popular option, offering both online and in-person tax preparation services. TaxAct is a great choice for those who are self-employed or have complex tax situations.

Other Free File providers include FreeTaxUSA, Online Taxes at, TaxSlayer, 1040Now,, TaxHawk, and

It’s important to note that while IRS Free File is a great option for many taxpayers, it may not be the best choice for everyone. If you have a complex tax situation or prefer to work with a professional tax preparer, you may want to consider other options. Additionally, some Free File providers may charge fees for certain services, such as state tax filing or additional support.

Step-by-Step Guide to Filing Taxes with IRS Free File

Now that we understand what IRS Free File is, let’s go through the step-by-step process of using it to file your taxes for free.

Step 1: Gather Necessary Documents

Before starting the tax-filing process, gather all the necessary documents, such as W-2 forms, 1099 forms, and any other relevant financial statements. This will make the process smoother and more efficient.

It’s important to note that you may need additional documents if you have certain deductions or credits. For example, if you’re claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit, you’ll need to provide documentation of your income and expenses.

Double-check that you have all the necessary documents before moving on to the next step.

Step 2: Choose a Free File Provider

Once you have your documents in order, it’s time to choose a Free File provider that fits your needs. There are several providers to choose from, each with its own eligibility criteria, support services, and fees (if any).

Take the time to research each provider and compare their offerings before making your selection. Some providers may offer more guidance and support, while others may have a simpler interface.

Remember that you can switch providers at any time during the process if you’re not satisfied with your initial choice.

Step 3: Create an Account and Log In

After selecting a provider, create an account with them and log in. This step may require some personal information, such as your name and social security number, so make sure to have that ready.

Once you’re logged in, you’ll be able to access the provider’s tax-filing software and begin entering your information.

Step 4: Complete Your Tax Return

Using the online software provided by your chosen provider, complete your tax return by entering the relevant information from your documents. Some providers may offer a guided step-by-step process, while others may require you to input the information manually.

Be sure to take your time and enter the information accurately. Mistakes can result in delays or even penalties from the IRS.

If you’re unsure about how to enter a certain piece of information, most providers offer help and support services that you can access.

Step 5: Review and Submit Your Tax Return

After completing your tax return, take the time to thoroughly review it for accuracy and completeness. Check that all the information is correct and that you’ve claimed all the deductions and credits you’re eligible for.

Once you’re satisfied, submit your tax return electronically to the IRS. This is a quick and easy process that can be done with just a few clicks.

After submitting your return, you’ll receive a confirmation from both the provider and the IRS. Keep this confirmation for your records.

Step 6: Track Your Refund Status

Finally, track the status of your tax refund to ensure that everything was processed correctly. You can do this through the IRS website or by contacting them directly.

It’s important to note that refunds can take several weeks to process, so don’t be alarmed if it takes some time to receive your money.

If you run into any issues or have questions about your refund, don’t hesitate to contact the IRS or your Free File provider for assistance.

Common Tax Credits and Deductions

Now that you know how to file your taxes for free with IRS Free File, let’s go over some common tax credits and deductions that may apply to you.

Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)

The EITC is a credit for low- to moderate-income earners. Depending on your income level and family status, you may be eligible for a credit of up to $6,660. This credit is designed to help individuals and families who are struggling to make ends meet. It can provide a significant financial boost that can help you pay for basic necessities like food, housing, and transportation. In order to qualify for the EITC, you must meet certain income and eligibility requirements, so be sure to check with the IRS to see if you qualify.

Child Tax Credit

If you have children under the age of 17, you may be eligible for the Child Tax Credit. This credit can give you up to $2,000 per qualifying child. This credit is designed to help families with the costs of raising children. It can be used to pay for things like childcare, school supplies, and extracurricular activities. To qualify for the Child Tax Credit, you must meet certain income and eligibility requirements, so be sure to check with the IRS to see if you qualify.

Education Tax Credits

If you’re paying for education expenses, such as tuition and fees, you may be eligible for tax credits such as the American Opportunity Tax Credit or the Lifetime Learning Credit. These credits can help you offset the costs of higher education, which can be quite expensive. The American Opportunity Tax Credit can provide up to $2,500 per student, while the Lifetime Learning Credit can provide up to $2,000 per tax return. To qualify for these credits, you must meet certain income and eligibility requirements, so be sure to check with the IRS to see if you qualify.

Standard Deduction vs. Itemized Deductions

When filing your taxes, you can choose to take either the standard deduction or itemized deductions. The standard deduction varies based on your filing status, while itemized deductions include expenses such as mortgage interest, state and local taxes, and charitable donations. The standard deduction is a fixed amount that is subtracted from your taxable income, while itemized deductions are based on the actual expenses you incurred throughout the year. Generally, if your itemized deductions are greater than the standard deduction, it makes sense to itemize. However, if your itemized deductions are less than the standard deduction, it makes sense to take the standard deduction. Be sure to consult with a tax professional to determine which option is best for you.


IRS Free File is an excellent option for budget-conscious taxpayers who want to file their taxes for free. By following the step-by-step guide and taking advantage of eligible tax credits and deductions, you can maximize your tax refund and take control of your finances.

irs free file

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