How to file your 2021 tax return for free

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How to file your 2021 tax return for free
© Provided by CNET You may qualify for free tax-preparation service. kate_sept2004/Getty Images

The IRS will begin accepting 2021 tax returns on Jan. 24 and the deadline for those returns in most areas is April 18.

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You can always pay for tax-prep software or hire a tax specialist to do the heavy lifting, but if your taxes are simple — or you’re in a certain income bracket — you may be able to file for free.

Below, we’ve gathered some options for filing your taxes at no cost. 

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A note of caution: Tax preparation services may invite you to start your return with a free product, warns Mark Steber, chief tax information officer at Jackson Hewitt, but require an upgrade to a paid version for a variety of scenarios. This could include taking advantage of education and dependent care credits. 

Before selecting one of these programs, or any “free” tax-prep service, make sure your tax situation won’t push you into a paid category.

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For more, find out when 2021 income taxes are due, important tips for doing your taxes by phone and the best tax software for 2022

1. IRS Free File

The IRS partners with H&R Block and other major tax-prep firms to offer Free File software to individuals whose income is below $72,000. (Intuit, the company behind the tax filing software TurboTax, announced last summer that it would no longer participate in the IRS Free File Alliance.)

If your income is more than $72,000, you can still use Free File Fillable Forms. But that service doesn’t include free state return options — and it requires that you file your taxes yourself, without IRS help.

You’ll need to do the math yourself and have your previous year’s tax return on hand.

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2. VITA or TCE

The IRS also offers free tax-preparation services for those most in need: The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program helps filers who make less than $57,000, those with disabilities or those who speak limited English. The volunteers are IRS-certified and supply basic income tax return prep.

Tax Counseling for the Elderly targets those who are 60 and older, with specific advice on retirement-related concerns. Even those who are still working but nearing retirement might benefit from TCE services.

To find a VITA or TCE site near you, use the VITA Locator Tool or call 800-906-9887.

3. H&R Block

While H&R Block has offices and professional help all over the country, it also offers a way to file your taxes for free online. You can easily import your tax documents, which means you can switch from the software you used last year. If you’re struggling with filing, you can use H&R Block’s help center or online technical support. 

Even with the free file, you’ll have access to tax deductions and credits, including the Earned Income Tax Credit. The free file software also tracks your refund as you complete it, so you can see how much you earn as you go.

4. TaxAct

File your federal and state taxes for free with TaxAct. You can import your filings from TurboTax or H&R Block or import your TaxAct return from last year for no extra charge. When you file your federal return, your details are autocompleted in your state return so it’s easier — and quicker — to complete. As with H&R Block, you’ll be able to see your estimated refund in real-time.

5. e-file.com

 Authorized by the IRS, e-file.com E-file.com offers free federal tax return service for those who qualify for its basic software. It also has paid tiers, with accuracy and best-price guarantees.

6. TaxSlayer

To qualify for a free TaxSlayer filing, you’ll need a simple return. You’ll be able to prepare, file and print your return for free and get one free state return for no extra cost. While some preparers offer online-only support through chat, TaxSlayer has email and phone support when you need extra help. You can also deduct your filing fees from your federal tax refund.

7. Cash App Taxes

Even though Credit Karma is mostly known as a place to check your credit score for free, you can take advantage of its other products — including this app that allows you to filing your taxes for free.

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