7 Options for Free Tax Filing in 2024

There are several ways to get free tax filing help this year. IRS Free File, Direct File, and VITA are just a few options to explore.
Tina Orem
Sabrina Parys
By Sabrina Parys and  Tina Orem 
Updated
Edited by Pamela de la Fuente

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How to file your taxes for free

Free tax filing can seem too good to be true, but there are several options it pays to know about.

Taxpayers who make below a certain income can access free commercial tax software through the IRS Free File program, a collaboration between the IRS and the Free File Alliance. For those confident enough to file without guidance, the agency also offers free fillable forms that anyone can access, no matter their income level.

New this year, the IRS is also piloting Direct File, a service that lets you file your return electronically, directly with the agency, in 12 states.

Many popular tax software companies also offer a free version of their tax filing programs. The caveat? The free tiers are typically limited in what they can handle and are usually best suited for those with simple tax returns.

Here’s a detailed breakdown of several free tax filing services, who they work best for, and where to learn more

7 free tax filing options

Click on the links below to jump down and learn about each program.

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1. IRS Free File

IRS Free File is a partnership between the IRS and a nonprofit organization called the Free File Alliance. It lets certain people access free software from several tax-prep companies, including major brands such as TaxAct and TaxSlayer. Some Free File products are also available in Spanish.

You can browse this year's Free File providers here.

How it works

For the 2024 tax filing season, families and individual taxpayers who had adjusted gross incomes of $79,000 or less in 2023 are generally eligible. But each participating provider can set additional guidelines for eligibility, such as age or residency. Not all Free File offers include free state returns, so make sure to read the fine print.

The IRS also provides everyone (regardless of income) with access to free fillable IRS forms that you can submit electronically at no additional cost, but be warned that this option does not provide much tax guidance, nor does it offer state filing options.

Where to get it

Taxpayers can access the Free File program via the IRS website Jan. 12, 2024, through mid-October, the tax extension deadline. Access to free fillable forms is also available on the IRS website from Jan. 29, 2024, through mid-October

Internal Revenue Service. Free File Fillable Forms. Accessed Jun 8, 2023.
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If you're filing by paper and mail, you can find the forms you need on the IRS website, by visiting a Taxpayer Assistance Center or requesting them via phone (800-829-3676). Your local library may also carry common IRS forms.

» Next steps: Learn more about IRS Free File and where to access it

2. Free online tax preparation services

Many major tax software providers offer a free tier of tax preparation software for people with very simple tax situations. These packages may be different from what’s available via IRS Free File if the provider participates.

How each software defines “simple tax return” will vary. Typically (but not always), these packages are well-suited for people who only have income from one job and aren’t itemizing on their tax returns. If your tax situation is a little more complex, this might not be a solution for you.

How it works

Most free packages cover Form 1040 and may help you claim tax breaks such as the child tax credit or the earned income tax credit. Some may also be able to help with student loan interest or bank interest. State tax returns are usually also included in these free packages, though be warned that if you’re filing around the tax deadline, some providers may add a fee for the service. Below is an overview of the free packages for the four tax preparation providers that NerdWallet reviews.

Free online tax filing software compared

Provider

Forms covered

Free state return included?

Income limitation?

1040, Schedule 1, 2, and 3 (limited), earned income tax credit, child tax credit, unemployment income, student loan interest, tuition and fees, certain retirement income, lifetime learning credit, and American opportunity tax credit.

See full list of supported forms here.

Yes.

No.

1040, earned income tax credit, child tax credit, unemployment income, certain retirement income, lifetime learning credit and American opportunity credit.

See full list of supported forms here.

Yes.

No.

1040, unemployment income, student loan interest, lifetime learning credit, American opportunity credit.

TaxSlayer Simply Free does not work for those who need to claim dependent or who have a filing status of head of household, married filing separately, or qualifying widower.

See supported situations here.

Yes.

Yes, $100,000 or less.

1040, Schedule 1 (limited use), earned income tax credit, child tax credit, student loan interest, certain retirement income.

See full list of supported forms here.

Roughly 37% of taxpayers are eligible. TurboTax Free Edition supports Form 1040 and limited tax credits only.

Yes.

No.

Where to get it

Most tax software providers offer a free version on their websites. Our 2024 pick for best free tax software was H&R Block Free. Unlike other providers we reviewed, the free tier offers access to a wider range of tax forms without sacrificing user experience or contextual help. Which free software makes the most sense for you, however, will ultimately depend on your specific tax needs.

» Next steps: See our tax software roundup for a deep-dive comparison of the four providers above.

3. Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) is a federal grant program that helps community organizations provide free tax preparation to low- and moderate-income individuals, disabled people, older Americans and limited-English speakers. Generally, the income limit to qualify for free tax help is $64,000.

How it works

The VITA program is housed under the IRS, but the actual VITA sites — the locations where tax-prep services are provided —  are run by partner organizations and local, IRS-certified volunteers. Volunteer tax preparers may not have a certified public accountant (CPA) or enrolled agent (EA) designation, but they are still held to a high standard of integrity. In fact, they must successfully finish a tax law competency training program to legally prepare returns. Your return will also be reviewed by a more advanced volunteer following initial completion.

VITA tax prep services can help with basic 1040 tax returns, as well as returns that deal with interest income from a bank, unemployment income, pensions and certain types of retirement income, the child tax credit and the earned income tax credit. You may even be able to get help with a return that features simple capital gains or losses, or self-employment income from a 1099-MISC, 1099-NEC or 1099-K, but these specific services are limited and not guaranteed

Internal Revenue Service. IRS Certified Volunteers Providing Free Tax Preparation. Accessed Jun 8, 2023.
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If your tax situation is complicated, VITA services might not be the right fit for you. For example, volunteers won’t prepare Schedule C with losses (sorry, freelancers), complicated Schedule Ds (sorry, investors) or forms associated with nondeductible IRA contributions or determinations of worker status (i.e., whether you’re technically an employee or an independent contractor).

Where to get it

The IRS website lists VITA sites across the country, operational hours, language spoken and whether you need an appointment before showing up. You can also call 800- 906-9887 to get a list of local sites near you.

Regardless of which VITA site you go to, make sure to bring a government ID, your Social Security card or ITIN documents, your prior-year tax return, all your relevant tax forms and statements of income for all relevant parties included on the tax return. And if you're filing jointly, make sure your partner is also present to file with you

Internal Revenue Service. What to Bring to Your Local VITA or TCE Site. Accessed Jun 8, 2023.
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4. GetYourRefund.org

For those who are unable to get an in-person appointment at a local VITA site, GetMyRefund.org offers additional ways to access VITA services. This nonprofit service, developed by Code for America in conjunction with the IRS, connects qualifying taxpayers with IRS-certified volunteers to help with full-service tax prep — all of which happens virtually

.

Those who make under $66,000 qualify, and the service is also available in Spanish. You must have a valid copy of your Social Security card or taxpayer identification number to be eligible. Tax preparers can also help you file tax returns from tax years 2020 through 2022 if you're behind.

How it works

You'll upload your tax documents to the service and fill out some basic information. A VITA tax preparer will then give you a call to go over your info before they get working on your return. Like traditional in-person VITA services, a second certified preparer will then look over your return to finalize it. The preparer will call to let you know your refund or bill amount and go over any questions you have. Once you approve, you'll sign off on your return online and the pro will submit your paperwork

. Per the website, the entire process takes two to three weeks from start to finish.

GetYourRefund.org also offers a "File Myself" option, which essentially connects anyone who makes under $79,000 — similar to the Free File offer — to partner brand-name tax software so that you can file your taxes on your own. Per the website, this includes free state returns and you don't need a copy of your Social Security number to use the service

GetYourRefund. What Is File Myself and How Does It Work?. Accessed Feb 13, 2024.
.

Where to get it

Navigate to the getyourrefund.org site. You can decide if the GetMyRefund service or the File Myself service is right for you. If you're not sure, the site offers a quick Q&A that can help you to make a determination. From there, you'll be guided through the process by the program, or if you choose File Myself, you'll get sent to the partner site to complete your return on your own.

5. Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE)

Tax Counseling for the Elderly is a federal grant program that helps community organizations provide free tax preparation focusing on pension- and retirement-related tax issues. The program was established to give free tax help to people 60 and older and still prioritizes that demographic, but some AARP-run sites may even offer help to low-to-moderate-income tax filers in their 50s

.

How it works

Similar to VITA, community organizations and nonprofits use grant money to provide free tax preparation. Vetted and trained volunteers complete the tax preparation. Most TCE sites are operated by the AARP Foundation’s Tax-Aide program. TCE services usually focus on helping with basic tax returns. Certain "Self-Prep" locations may also allow you to file your taxes on your own, using software with a volunteer available for assistance if you need it

Internal Revenue Service. Free Tax Return Preparation for Qualifying Taxpayers. Accessed Jun 8, 2023.
.

Where to get it

The IRS website lists TCE sites across the country, operational hours, language spoken and whether you need an appointment to show up. During the tax filing season (January through April), the IRS recommends using the AARP locater or calling 888-227-7669.

6. MilTax

MilTax is a Department of Defense program that provides free tax software and tax help, as well as financial and legal resources and other help to military members and their families and certain types of veterans. The service is available from the start of the tax filing season through the October extension deadline.

According to Military OneSource, the provider of the tax software, these tax services are available to those who are service members (new, current or transitioning) and their spouses, survivors, and reserves. Almost all service branches are covered, including the Army, the National Guard, the Marine Corps, the Navy, the Air Force, and the Space Force. There is no income requirement to qualify

Military OneSource. MilTax: Free Tax Services. Accessed Jun 8, 2023.
.

How it works

In addition to free tax software, trained MilTax consultants can give free tax help by phone and via live chat. The software is also well-positioned to help with specific military tax concerns, such as reconciling combat income or figuring out what multiple relocations mean for your taxes

. MilTax also participates in the VITA program, which means you can also get face-to-face free tax help on base or nearby.

Where to get it

Head to Militaryonesource.mil to get the software, find helpline numbers and hours of operation and see if a nearby installation has a VITA site.

7. Direct File

The IRS is testing this new service in 2024 for people with relatively simple returns. Residents of Arizona, California, Florida, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Nevada, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Wyoming may be eligible to file for free directly with the IRS

Internal Revenue Service. Direct File. Accessed Oct 18, 2023.

To make sure the service works correctly, the IRS is further limiting Direct File to a small group of taxpayers to start. Then, the IRS will open it up to more eligible people in those 12 states by mid-March.

How it works

To be eligible to participate in 2024, you must live in one of the participating states, have only certain income streams, and claim only certain tax credits and deductions.

The Direct File pilot can support W-2 income, unemployment, interest of $1,500 or less, and Social Security and railroad retirement income. The three credits it can file through the software include the child tax credit, the earned income tax credit and the credit for other dependents. For deductions, it can support the standard deduction, educator expenses and student loan interest.

Direct File will only help with individual federal tax returns, not state returns. Many of the states in the pilot do not have state income tax, and for those that do, the IRS has worked with the state governments to make sure those taxpayers are guided to a state-supported tool to file a state return.

Where to get it

Direct File is available through the IRS website, like Free File. The IRS says the service is accessible via mobile, tablet, laptop or desktop, and available in both English and Spanish. The agency announced details about the pilot in October 2023.

» Next steps: Learn more about IRS Direct File

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