Where To File Your Taxes For Free


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Free tax software is elusive. The biggest tax companies tend to keep their free options hidden, while companies that advertise free filing usually have major limitations.

As we review the best online tax preparation software every year, we keep an eye out for budget-friendly filling options.


Because most companies offer extremely limited free tiers, many filers need to eventually upgrade to a paid tier due to report things like HSA contributions, child care expenses, student loan interest, and other deductions.

Even adding more 1099s can force you to pay for those forms and features. Active cryptocurrency and stock traders, landlords, side hustlers, and full-time business owners will benefit from paying for high-end software, which offer the most features to import tax data and file quickly.

In other words, if you have a more complex tax filing situation, don’t start with the free option and then upgrade. Just choose a paid version. 


This article focuses on free tax software options. For 2024, Cash App Taxes is the only company offering free federal and state filing to all supported filers, though it has limitations. H&R Block has the best free tier offered by the premium paid software apps but imposes strict limitations that force many to upgrade. 

Note: Many filers wonder about FreeFile Alliance, a free tax filing option from the IRS. Unfortunately, it does not allow you to upgrade while you’re in the middle of your return. You need to be careful with how you start filing your taxes so you don’t get stuck. Your best bet is to start with the free link directly from the tax prep website, not the IRS Free File website.

Also, this year marks the first year of the new IRS Direct File program. However, it’s even more limited than the most limited free options below, so we don’t recommend it.


Before you select a “Free” software package, check out this list of the best free tax software to see which may work for you.

Note: The tax prep offers on this site are from companies from which The College Investor receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear), but it does not impact our independent reviews. The College Investor does not include all tax prep companies or all tax prep offers available in the marketplace, although we always strive to keep our content updated.

Free Tax Software? Companies Can Trick You With “Free” Offers

Most companies on this list offer free federal filing for select taxpayers. The trouble is that each company has different criteria for free filing, and most don’t tell you what you have to pay until the end.

Aside from a small list of students and low-income households, almost every major filing service requires you to upgrade to the “Deluxe” tier to claim common credits. It can be frustrating when you don’t realize you have to upgrade until you’re an hour into the process or about to click the submit button. 

Most Americans must file both federal and state returns. Some companies offer free federal filing but require users to pay steep fees for state filing. State filing costs are sometimes hidden on pricing pages, so be careful when choosing that advertise free federal filing.

What about the IRS Free File Website? Yes, you can file for free here. But there are limits, specifically with your income. You must have an AGI of less than $73,000. Given the median household income is $74,580 according to the US Census, not even half of Americans would qualify (and the number is much less when you take into consideration actual tax needs).

What about the new IRS Direct File Program? Yes, this is free too. But it’s very limited. You can’t have investment income, including dividends. You can’t side hustle. And it doesn’t do state tax returns – so you may have to use tax software anyway, which would make it a real mess because traditionally tax software doesn’t allow you to just do a state tax return only.

What about the IRS Free Fillable Forms? This is totally free and open to anyone. But you literally have to fill out the IRS forms yourself with no guided help, no calculations, nothing. Good luck!

What Companies Offer Free Federal And Free eFile State Tax Returns?

In 2024, Cash App Taxes is the only company offering free state and Federal filing for ALL users. Cash App Taxes (formerly Credit Karma Tax) offers a robust and user-friendly experience, audit support guarantees, and support for most common tax situations. However, there are limitations. For example, multi-state filing isn’t supported.

H&R Block also offers a robust free pricing tier. You could qualify for this tier if you:

  • Earned only W-2 income and 
  • Received only unemployment or Social Security income 

The free tier also supports:

You’ll have to upgrade for any other tax needs, most likely to the Deluxe tier.

Check out H&R Block Online here >>

We’re huge fans of H&R Block’s expanded free pricing and the completely free offering from Cash App Taxes. However, a free product may not fit you best in 2024.

Individuals with complex filing situations looking for a bargain may choose FreeTaxUSA – which offers free federal returns and $14.99 state returns. Active traders or others with complex situations may prefer premium software like H&R Block (higher tiers) or TurboTax.

List Of Free Tax Software Companies

Watch Out For These “Gotchas”

100% Free. However, some complicated situations aren’t covered (most notably, multi-state filing isn’t supported).

Read our Cash App Taxes Review.

Unemployment income, student loan interest, educational expenses, and Child Tax Credit included for free.

Watch out if you have to claim an HSA contribution (even if it’s reported on a W-2) or if you have child care expenses. People who may qualify for the Retirement Saver’s Credit also have to upgrade.

Read our H&R Block Review.

W-2 income, limited interest and dividend income and Earned Income Tax Credit, Rebate Recovery Credit, Child Tax Credit and student loan interest deduction included for free.

Watch out if you have unemployment income, Social Security income, if you need to claim an HSA contribution (even if it’s reported on a W-2) or if you have child care expenses.

According to TurboTax,  ~37% of taxpayers will qualify for the TurboTax Free Edition. 

Read our TurboTax Review.

W-2 income, Social Security Income and Unemployment income supported on Free tier. Earned Income Credit and Rebate Recovery Credit, and Educational credits also supported.

Watch out if you have student loan interest expenses, child or dependent care expenses, or HSA contributions. These disqualify you from the free filing.

Regardless of your income or expenses, all filers must pay for state filing.

Read our TaxAct Review.

Federal is free, though each state is $14.99 additional.

Read our FreeTaxUSA Review.

Federal is free, though each state is $14.99 additional.

Read our TaxHawk Review here.

Free for simple tax returns including student loan interest and educational expenses.

People with dependents, HSA contributions, IRA contributions, and other situations will need to upgrade.

Read our Tax Slayer Review.

Only Free for very simple returns. Filers can claim the Earned Income Credit and the Rebate Recovery Credit.

Watch out if you have over $50,000 in income, need to claim a dependent or have interest income in excess of $1,500. HSA contributors, student loan interest, and other common deductions and credits are also excluded.

State is always $19.95. 

Read our review.

The IRS Free Fillable Forms allow filers to file their returns manually. Filers need to understand their tax situation to use these forms, but it can work for certain filers.

These are federal forms only, but some states may have similar options.

Cash App Taxes

Cash App Taxes (formerly Credit Karma Tax) continues to deliver free state and federal filing for all users. The product offers most users an excellent experience, although active stock and crypto traders should look elsewhere.

You can’t use Cash App Taxes to file state returns if you worked or lived in multiple states in 2023. A handful of less common situations are also unsupported.

Cash App Taxes is a great product. The only “gotcha” is that you have to download and set up the free Cash App on your phone. If you’re unfamiliar, the Cash App from Square is similar to Venmo, PayPal, and other peer-to-peer payment apps.

Cash App Taxes is our top free choice for 2023 taxes filed during the 2024 tax season. Learn more about Cash App Taxes here.

free tax software: cash app taxes

H&R Block

H&R Block offers qualifying taxpayers a free federal and state return this year. The free tier includes support for:

  • W-2 income
  • credits and deductions
  • qualifying tuition payments
  • student loan interest
  • Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
  • Child Tax Credit (CTC)
  • retirement income

You’ll have to pay for self-employment, investments, real estate taxes and mortgage interest, investments, and other tax situations.

Not everyone will qualify for H&R Block’s free tier, but we continue to include it as a top choice because it is so easy to use and works for many people. Filers can simply snap a photo of their W-2, add some basic information, and complete filing.

Read more about what H&R Block offers in our H&R Block Review.

free tax software: H&R block online free edition


In 2024, TurboTax offers a free tier to those with limited needs and simple returns. Not all taxpayers will qualify.

This version supports:

  • W-2 income
  • Limited 1099 interest and dividend income
  • 1099-K income
  • Student loan interest
  • Child tax credit
  • Earned Income Tax Credit 

Anything else requires paying and you’ll have to upgrade if you:

  • Itemize your deductions
  • Earn unemployment
  • Own a business
  • Sold stocks or other investments
  • Owned rental property
  • Qualify for additional credits or deductions

Read more about what TurboTax offers in our detailed TurboTax review.

free tax software: turbotax


TaxAct has an expansive free filing option, but it only applies to federal returns. All filers have to pay for state returns. Given the high price point of state returns, TaxAct could be a better choice for people seeking free filing.

In 2024, TaxAct provides federal free filing to people with:

  • W-2 income
  • Education expenses (but not student loan interest)
  • People who want to claim the child tax deduction 

You must upgrade if you have:

  • Student loan interest
  • Charitable contributions
  • Child care expenses
  • Contributions to a traditional IRA

You can read more about what TaxAct offers in our TaxAct Review.

free tax software: taxact


FreeTaxUSA advertises itself as the best place to file your federal taxes for Free. It captures all forms and all individual tax situations on the Federal side. Unfortunately, it doesn’t include free state filing.

While it isn’t free, we still think FreeTaxUSA offers an excellent option for people with complex tax filing situations who want to save on tax preparation costs. It’s especially useful for K-1 income and multi-state filers who don’t qualify for Cash App Taxes.

Check out our FreeTaxUSA review here.

free tax software: freetaxusa

Tax Hawk

TaxHawk advertises that you can “File Federal Taxes Free,” which is technically true. But people who file state returns will need to pay per state. With steadily improving software and many fans returning annually, TaxHawk is a solid bargain tax filing choice.

Read our full TaxHawk review here.

free tax software: taxhawk


TaxSlayer is open and honest about only supporting simple returns on its free tier. While it doesn’t support Child Tax Credits or HSA contributions on its free tier, it supports student loan interest deductions and other simple needs.

Due to its limitations, we don’t recommend the free version. However, TaxSlayer Classic is a Premium software bargain, even for more complex filers, which earns it a spot on our best tax software list for those who can’t file for free.

You can read our full TaxSlayer Review here.

free tax software: taxslayer free


ezTaxReturn only supports free federal filing for a limited subset of people. You must earn less than $50,000 and not have any dependents. You’ll have to upgrade if you earn more than $1,500 in interest. All credits and deductions require upgrading to a paid version.

The company always charges for state filing.The free software is incredibly limited, and the software is difficult to use. Since you need to pay for state filing, we recommend skipping ezTaxReturn in 2024. 

Check out our ezTaxReturn review here.

free tax software: eztaxreturn

IRS Free Fillable Forms

The IRS offers free fillable forms from mid-January through mid-October (when filing closes). If you’re used to filing your taxes with pen and paper, you might upgrade to these easy-to-use forms, but they’re just a small upgrade from a typewriter.

Generally, we prefer the ease of the tax filing software above. IRS fillable forms could make sense if you have little income and deductible expenses.

Why You Should Trust The College Investor

At The College Investor, we’re your trusted guide in navigating financial decisions, including in picking the best free tax software. Founded in 2009, our platform has evolved into a comprehensive resource for personal finance advice.

Our expert team offers objective, carefully fact-checked advice and reviews to help you make informed choices. We focus on helping you understand the financial landscape, from managing student loans to building wealth. With our commitment to accuracy and up-to-date information, you can rely on us for dependable guidance in your financial journey.

Final Reminder About Free Tax Filing

The world of “Free Tax Filing” isn’t exactly free. Use the guide above to help you choose the right software for your situation. Also, don’t opt for free tax filing if it means missing out on big tax deductions.

Those who prefer to use expensive tax filing software do so because it offers more robust tools to help them feel more confident about their filing.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here are the answers to a few of the questions that people ask most often about free tax software:

Is there such a thing as free tax software?

Several companies offer free tax software to some customers. Unfortunately, most companies restrict who can file for free. In 2024, only Cash App Taxes is free for all users. However, H&R Block Free has a comprehensive version of free filing for state and federal filers.

Does free filing have restrictions?

Most companies restrict who qualifies for free filing. These companies need to make money, requiring most users to upgrade. If you choose to pay, make that determination from the get go. It’ll save you time because you won’t find yourself getting stuck with having to upgrade after you spent an hour or two entering all of your financial information.

Are federal and state tax returns free?

The FreeFile Alliance focuses on free federal filing. However, several companies offer free federal and state filing for a limited subset of households. For example, TurboTax, H&R Block, TaxSlayer, TaxAct, and Cash App Taxes offer free federal and state filing. Cash App Taxes is the only company offering free state filing to all qualified users.

Which tax software is free?

Cash App Taxes offers free filing to most filers. H&R Block is an expansive free option that is a bit easier to use than Cash App Taxes, so we recommend it to people who qualify.

FreeTaxUSA, TaxHawk, and OLT.com offer free Federal filing to all users but require people to pay for state filing.

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