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Home » Best of, Taxes

5 of the Cheapest & Best Ways to E-File your Taxes

Last updated by on January 14, 2016

E-filing? Try These 5 Free Options

I have updated this post for 2016 (2015 tax year). I’ve always used paid Turbotax & H&R Block electronic and software products to do my own taxes. They are my two recommended overall tax programs and they even have free and much cheap options available for those who have relatively simple returns and a low enough adjusted gross income. While Turbotax and H&R Block might be the best options for most e-filers, there are other reputable alternatives as well. After researching the marketplace, here are the five options that topped my list if your goal is to have the cheapest e-file tax return.

Lets start with my two favorite: H&R Block and Turbotax.

efiling-taxesH&R block free editionH&R Block: offers a free-file edition. To use their free edition, your Adjusted Gross Income must be $62,000 or less, AND your age is between 17 and 50, OR you are active military with an AGI of $62,000 or less. The same criteria applies for free state return(s) for any state. If you start with the free version, you can easily transfer and upgrade to a different version at a later time if you do not qualify or you have a more complicated return. I have used H&R the last few years and really like their program. H&R Block offers free audit support and 1:1 help. H&R Block is offering 15% off their online editions (basic, deluxe, and premium) at that link.

Turbotax: offers a free e-file edition for those with and adjusted income of $31,000 or less ($62,000 or less for active military), or to those who are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit. If you choose to file a state e-file, the same criteria applies. If you choose to upgrade to another version, your data is transferred. Right now, Turbotax is offering significant discounts on higher level products as well.

TaxAct: offers a free-file. Eligibility requires your adjusted gross income to be $50,000 or less and your age be under 56 OR active military with an AGI under 62,000 for the free e-file version. Same criteria applies for free state returns.

eSmartTax: eSmartTax is the online version of Liberty Tax, which has over 4,000 offices nationwide. If you have an adjusted Gross Income $62,000 or less and have an age between 18 and 54 you can file your federal return for free. State returns are $19.95.

FreeFile: there are a few options that the IRS gives for those looking for free e-filing, starting January 15, 2016. If your income is above $62,000, and you are up for some work and have plenty of time, you can fill out forms online through the IRS fillable forms website and then e-file with them. The BIG problem with this route is that you can’t prepare or submit your state return through the IRS. This is a big pain because you have to go elsewhere to do your state return (and all the data that you’ve already entered does not transfer with you). For state returns, the IRS lists 13 approved e-file vendors to choose from, many of whom offer free e-filing on federal returns already. Also, fillable forms are not nearly as simple to fill out as tax software. You literally are filling out IRS tax forms. I would not recommend it – but it is an option available to you for free e-filing.

There are no IRS approved vendors that offer free-file to those with adjusted gross income over $62,000. If your income is higher and/or you invest, are a homeowner, or itemize deductions, I’d recommend going with the most appropriate paid TurbotaxH&R Block editions mentioned earlier.

E-Filing Discussion:

  • What’s the cheapest way that you’ve been able to file your taxes, while getting the best return?
  • Have you done your taxes yet?
  • How are you filing your taxes this year?

TurboTax is Easy, Free Edition, Fast Refund


About the Author
I am G.E. Miller, & this is my story. My goal is financial independence ASAP. If you share that goal, join me & 7,500+ others by getting FREE email updates. You can also explore every post I have written, in order.


32 Comments »
  • James says:

    Has anyone used TaxAct before? How is it?

  • G.E. Miller says:

    @ Paul – some good tips. Just to emphasize Paul’s point, Turbotax, H&R Block, and some of the other software won’t allow you to transfer data automatically from your free federal e-file. Instead, it would have to be a manual entry based on the information you input for your federal return. I haven’t tried this method, so not sure how easy it is. How long would you say it takes, Paul?

  • P.R. says:

    If you’ve used TurboTax free version before, they will automatically transfer last year’s data and charge you for it at the end. From what I could tell, there’s no way to avoid this data transfer, so you have to pay $15 to file if you’ve used TurboTax before.

  • allen says:

    Question:

    I use the purchased version of TurboTax (due to it being easier to deal with some investments I have); Can i still use any of these services to file them free? I make under the limit. Do i just print the forms to PDF and email it to them, &c?

    Sorry, taxes can be a worrying time. Thanks for any guidance up front!

    -=allen

  • G.E. Miller says:

    @ P. R. – Good heads up.

    @ Allen – If you used a purchased version, I believe you get 5 free e-files with it, so there’s no need to go directly through the IRS site – not sure if it transfers over to a state site for free. You may want to check out your individual state’s site. My state had a listing of products that you could use.

  • allen says:

    @G.E. Miller: Ooooo… i must be thinking of the stupid fee you pay if you want direct deposit from the IRS.

  • Shaun Connell says:

    I’m hiring someone this year, though next year I’ll probably file for myself. ::bookmarked::

  • Mohammed says:

    @ Paul – some good tips. Just to emphasize Paul’s point, Turbotax, H&R Block, and some of the other software won’t allow you to transfer data automatically from your free federal e-file. Instead, it would have to be a manual entry based on the information you input for your federal return. I haven’t tried this method, so not sure how easy it is. How long would you say it takes, Paul?

  • Anton Ivanov | Dreams Cash True says:

    TurboTax all the way for me. Definitely not the cheapest option, but as a stock market and real estate investor and a business owner, I have found their tax preparation process very easy and straightforward. Never had a problem with any of my returns and it beats paying a few hundred dollars to an accountant.

  • Shobir says:

    Some excellent resources here. I’ve never liked dealing with my taxes and hated to hire an accountant. Some of the recommendations mentioned here are excellent and has given me lots of ideas to go forward. Turbo Tax looks really interesting and I will have to give that some serious thought. Really liking the blog, keep the useful information coming. Thanks ever so much!

  • Imran says:

    Taxes can be a pain, this post really made me think about all the helpful resources available on the internet. I was particularly interested in the features of Turbo Tax. I feel like a burden is lifted from me every time I file my tax return. Some excellent information here, thanks for sharing.

  • Alicia says:

    H&R Block only charged me $14.99 to file my 2013 California State taxes. I used the free Federal tax return and then did my state taxes. The total charge was $14.99.

    I also tried TurboTax but they were more expensive. Their software is easier to use…more intuitive but also more expensive. I don’t mind entering the info twice because it verifies that I did my taxes correctly. :)

  • zee says:

    how good are these cheap e-file programs at handling semi-complicated tax returns?

    i’m a middle class guy who has a mortgage, 9-5, 401k, HSA, ESPP, rollover, roth, brokerage account, etc. [what i assume is ‘the norm’ for folks on this site]
    i also rented part of my home for part of the year.
    i also have another property that i rent out.
    i also am the beneficiary of a trust and get a k1.

    currently i use a CPA to handle my taxes, and it’s embarrassingly expensive. they ask a ton of questions and i’m still doing a huge amount of work.

    i’m wondering if i’m basically doing all the work except actually entering the numbers into turbotax / h&r block and paying WAY more for it and not actually getting a better return, or only marginally better.

    • G.E. Miller says:

      With that complicated of a return, you’ll definitely NEED a paid version. My recommendation would be H&R Block “Best of Both”, which is what I use – and if that doesn’t suit you, stay with a CPA. The free versions are bare bones for simple returns. Yours is more advanced than 98% of the country, I’d wager.

  • Sue F says:

    What about AARP and them doing/helping with taxes? Cost? Any input would be helpful.
    Thnks

  • chevygurl says:

    freefillible, my aunt fanny. I missed the dead line because of there incompetent software…. Schedules and worksheets do not merged together, seriously. Guess the government will never change.

  • New to this says:

    I only worked four months out of the year so I can’t really afford for money to be taken away what’s a better option for free to really cheap and simple! It’s my first time doing taxes

  • New to this says:

    Also in getting it done free or really cheap is my only option online or would it be easier or possible to go somewhere to get them done

  • Danny Breedlove says:

    Folks lets be clear, when it comes to online tax preparation, free doesn’t mean free, at least not without a catch. You have to realizes that these large corporations have expenses and employees to pay, there is no way they can afford to give out absolutely free online tax software without going out of business. So when it comes to online tax preparation software you have to experiment with different vendors to see which offers the best bang for your buck.

  • king izzy says:

    Do any of these free programs TRULY maximize your tax return? That is what I would like to know.
    Even in-person services attempt achieving this..
    and there in lies their value.
    My guess is that free online software may not achieve the same??

    • Claire says:

      I’ve used TaxACT for about 5 years because I hated paying the CPA.

      The software steps me through all the questions / options and reminds me about things like my health insurance, 401K, charitable donations, capital gains / losses, etc. All the forms are linked right into the software at point of need, so you don’t have to jump back and forth.

      And it usually costs me under $40 to file both federal and state tax forms, and I make more than $60K.

  • PoppaJ says:

    Ruhroh..just noticed that TaxACT free is not for over 60s. I filled it out and it took my data, seems to get the senior information right. Am I missing anything?

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