The Internal Revenue Service won't start processing 2022 tax returns until Jan. 23, but you still can file before then. And if your adjusted gross income last year was $73,000 or less you can file for free at Free File.
If you use a search engine to find free tax filing, you'll likely discover other options. You'll also probably get such offers in your email box. But the only official, IRS-sanctioned Free File option is the one on its website.
9 options from 7 companies: This year, you can select from nine no-cost online tax preparation and e-filing options, offered by seven companies. They are —
- ezTaxReturn.com (2 choices)
- FileYourTaxes.com (2 choices)
- OLT Online Taxes
The thumbnail photo strips sprinkled in this post give you a brief look at each of the companies' offerings and some of their requirements. That's right. Each participating Free File company is allowed to set its own criteria.
Some can be used by folks who are at the top earnings threshold, which this filing season remains at $73,000. That maximum AGI applies to all returns, regardless of the filing status.
But some of software providers have lower income requirements to use their Free File products. There also are various age and state residency requirements. Some focus on military taxpayers.
Be a careful tax shopper: Unless you've used one of this year's Free File programs before and are happy with it, shop around. And even if you do fine your prior Free File company, make sure it hasn't changed his year.
It's as important to thoroughly check out the free services, just as you would any you pay for, to ensure your choice covers your filing needs.
At the browse all offers interactive page, you can set parameters to help narrow your search. Or you can use the Free File lookup tool. This online search option asks you a series of questions about your tax situation and then provides you with Free File matches.
What you need to use Free File
Tax filing is always easier if you're ready. So that your Free File experience will be a successful one with as little stress as possible, the IRS suggests you gather the following information and materials before you start.
Income and Receipts:
Healthcare/Affordable Care Act data:
You can read more about Free File, what you need to get started, related filing tools, and more in the drop-down sections of IRS.gov's main IRS Free File page.
State tax alert: Most U.S. taxpayers live in states that have an individual income tax and, like Uncle Sam, require their residents to file an annual return.
Some, but not all, this year's Free File providers offer free state tax prep an e-filing. But not all. Some offer it, but for a fee. And some companies that do offer free state filing only do so for certain states. So double check the state details if this feature is important to you.
You also should check with your state tax department about free tax preparation and filing options. Most offer at least some form of free e-filing for their residents. This would mean going to different sites to fulfill all your tax responsibilities, but if you can complete your state returns for free, the added work is likely worth it.
Military matters: Some Free File companies also offer deals to active-duty military personnel.
However, service members also should check out MilTax, the online tax services program for the military offered through the Department of Defense.
MilTax online software will be available next week, specifically starting Tuesday, Jan. 17. That gives military men and women a few days to double check or set up their Military OneSource account necessary to use the MilTax service.
Early free filing as usual: The opening of Free File before the official start of the full tax season is standard filing season practice. A key reason for the staggered process is that it gives filers, software companies, and the IRS, a little early season breathing room.
In advance of the official date — again, Monday, Jan. 23 — when the IRS actually starts accepting and processing returns, eager taxpayers who have all the information they need to file can get that task out of the way.
The Free File software companies will hold those completed Free File returns until the IRS is ready to take them. On that date — one more time, Jan. 23 — the companies, just like their paid-for counterparts that other filers use, will ship the pre-filed returns to the IRS for processing.
Meanwhile, the IRS is putting final updates into its system so it can handle the annual influx of 1040 forms. Through last October, the IRS received nearly 151.5 million e-filed returns.
Free option for higher earners: Even if you made more than $73,000 last year, you still can use a version of Free File. The IRS is again offering Free Fillable Forms.
This is the electronic version of the most commonly used IRS paper forms, converted to online versions, and they are available to any taxpayer regardless of income. Or will be available. The service is not quite ready; the IRS says to check back later in January for Free File Fillable Forms.
Once it's operational, you select the forms you need, fill them out at your computer and then, like the full Free File set-up, electronically submit them to the IRS at no cost.
Remember, though, there is no programmed tax software component in Free Fillable Forms. You must not only complete the forms themselves, but also have some knowledge of the tax laws so that you can do so correctly.
If you're comfortable doing that and aren't eligible for the full Free File option, then Free Fillable Forms is a good alternative.
You also might find these items of interest:
- Tax documents you need to file your 2022 return
- What's new when it comes to filing your 2022 taxes
- 3 reasons why tax refunds in 2023 might be smaller