IRS Free File 2024: What It Is, How It Works

Interested in the IRS Free File service? All you need to know about the program, plus other IRS options for free tax filing.
Tina Orem
Sabrina Parys
By Sabrina Parys and  Tina Orem 
Updated
Edited by Alana Benson

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The IRS has long entertained the idea of running its own tax filing system, where all taxpayers could complete their returns through the agency’s website free of charge. Funding from the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act has brought this lofty goal one step closer to reality: A pilot program called Direct File will be available to select users in 12 states for the 2024 tax filing season.

For the vast majority of us not participating in the trial, there is still good news. Two other free tax filing options will remain available through the IRS: Free File and Free File Fillable Forms.

Here’s more about the programs, who qualifies and how to access them.

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What is IRS Free File?

IRS Free File is a partnership between the agency and the Free File Alliance. The program gives eligible taxpayers who earn below a certain income access to an assortment of free tax-prep software to choose from. It is generally available each year from mid-January, right before tax season opens, through the October tax extension deadline.

If you meet the income qualifications, you can browse through the available offers on the IRS website. Participating providers include major commercial brands, such as TaxSlayer and TaxAct. The alliance says that 70% of all taxpayers — about 100 million people — should be eligible to file their federal returns free of charge each year through the Free File program.

Who is eligible for Free File?

For the 2024 tax filing season, people who made $79,000 or less in 2023 are eligible. The income threshold applies to all tax filing statuses, and the income limit refers to your adjusted gross income (AGI), not your gross income.

Some providers may have additional requirements, such as age limitations or more restrictive income thresholds. State filing may not always be included with the free federal offer, but the IRS says that over 20 states were available last year.

If you qualify for a free federal return via Free File but are left hanging on a free state return, note that some states may also offer their own free filing programs. Make sure to check your state’s department of taxation and revenue website as well. (And if you need a refresher on state tax rates, you can check yours here.)

» Dive Deeper: Don't qualify for IRS Free File? More options for free tax filing

How does the IRS Free File program work?

The easiest and most legitimate way to access Free File is through the IRS website. Some providers who participate in Free File may not advertise their participation or the correct IRS offer on their individual websites, so it's important to make sure you're opening the Free File directly from the IRS' Free File landing page.

You can access the available Free File offers in two ways: You can browse through each provider manually or use the IRS' online lookup tool. The lookup tool will run you through a quick survey of questions about your filing status, your adjusted gross income and your qualifications for certain tax credits. Then it’ll run your answers through the system to surface which of the available Free File programs is the best fit for you.

2024 IRS Free File: Participating software providers

IRS Free File opened on Jan. 12, and the service will run through mid-October.

The following providers are participating in the Free File program for the 2024 tax filing season: 1040.com, 1040Now, EzTaxReturn, FileYourTaxes.com, FreeTaxUSA, OnLine Taxes, TaxAct and TaxSlayer.

Provider

Additional qualifying requirements

1040.com

  • AGI: between $17,000 and $79,000. All active military members qualify regardless of income.

  • No age restrictions.

  • Free federal return for all states for qualifying individuals. Those who don't qualify can pay $25 for a federal and state return.

  • Free state returns for AL, AR, AZ, CT, GA, IA, ID, IN, KY, MA, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT, NC, ND, NY, OR, RI, SC, VA, VT, WI, WV. Nonsupported states can be added for $9.99.

1040Now

  • AGI: $68,000 or less.

  • No age restrictions.

  • Free federal return for all states, except IN.

  • No free state return, but can be added for $17.95.

ezTaxReturn

  • AGI: $79,000 or less.

  • No age restrictions.

  • Free federal return for AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, GA, ID, IL, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, MI, MN, MO, MS, NC, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OH, OK, PA, SC, VA, WA, WI.

  • No free state return, but can be added for $24.99.

FileYourTaxes.com

  • AGI: $8,500 to $79,000.

  • Age: 64 or younger.

  • Free federal return for all states.

  • Free state return for AL, MT, RI, WV. State returns for nonsupported states can be added for $40.

FreeTaxUSA

  • AGI: $45,000 or less. $79,000 or less if on active military duty.

  • No age restriction.

  • Free federal return for all states.

  • Free state returns for all states. If you don’t qualify for free federal offer, state return is $14.99.

OLT (OnLine Taxes)

  • AGI: $45,000 or less. $79,000 if active duty military.

  • No age restriction.

  • Free federal return for all states.

  • Free state return for all states. If you don’t qualify for free federal offer, state return is $9.95.

TaxAct

  • AGI: Less than $79,000.

  • 20 to 58 years old OR are active duty military.

  • Free federal return for all states.

  • Free state return for AR, IA, ID, MS, MT, ND, RI, VT, WA, WV. State returns for nonsupported states are $39.99.

TaxSlayer

  • AGI: $44,000 or less. $79,000 or less for active duty military. You may also qualify for this offer if you don’t meet the income guidelines but are eligible for the EITC.

  • No age limitations.

  • Free federal return for all states.

  • Free state return for AR, AZ, DC, GA, IA, ID, IN, KY, MA, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT, NC, ND, NY, OR, RI, SC, VA, VT, WV. State returns for nonsupported states are $39.95.

*State returns are generally only supported if you qualify for the free federal return. See the IRS Free File offers page for more information.

Note: Some providers have additional income restrictions, and others may impose limits on things such as age. Most of the providers will help with military pay and can assist you in applying for the earned income tax credit (EITC) if you qualify for it. This table is meant to provide a general overview of the providers, but be sure to use the IRS' lookup tool to read through the fine print and find the best fit for your tax situation.

What are IRS Free File Fillable Forms?

The IRS also offers a little-talked-about free filing option called Free File Fillable Forms. As the name implies, this route allows you to digitally fill out several common federal income tax forms and submit them using the IRS' online e-file service. The IRS calls this option the "electronic equivalent of paper forms."

For the 2024 tax filing season, Free Fillable Forms became available to the public on Jan. 29, 2024.

Unlike the Free File software program, Fillable Forms has no restrictions on who could use this filing option — it is available to all taxpayers, regardless of their income, place of residence or age. Once you submit your return, the agency says, you should get a confirmation email within two days.

If you're new to taxes or not especially confident dealing with tax forms, note that this option may not be a good fit. Although the filing interface is relatively simple, allowing you to add forms and do basic math equations, it does not offer any tax support, filing guidance or help. People who use this service should be comfortable understanding and navigating tax forms on their own.

To use the service, you'll need to create an account on the Free File Fillable Forms landing page. You can see which forms the program supports here.

Frequently asked questions

The IRS Free File program generally opens in early to mid-January, around the start of tax filing season, and access typically ends in mid-October, around the tax extension deadline. In 2024, the service began accepting and holding tax returns on Jan. 12, 2024

.

Taxpayers who made $79,000 or less in 2023 are eligible for Free File. The $79,000 threshold applies to all filing statuses.

Some, but not all, participating IRS Free File programs offer free state tax returns. You can also check with your state department to see whether there are additional options for free state filing available to you.

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