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Published:   |   Last Updated: February 8, 2024

Free File Options

Filing electronically is the safest, fastest, and most accurate way to file your tax return. If you choose to prepare and file your own tax return, the IRS offers you two ways to electronically file (e-file) your tax return for free.

person on a computer

What do I need to know?

Free File Software

If you meet a certain income level, Free File software allows you to use brand-name software to prepare and file your tax return. The program is available each year from generally January 15 through October 15.

You can use this option for 2023 tax returns if your income is below a certain amount, currently $79,000. However, each type of tax return software has its own restrictions, which may be lower. Make sure you qualify before you start using the program.

International Filers: The Free File program is free for Federal tax returns but doesn’t necessarily include tax returns for taxpayers living abroad. You should familiarize yourself with the forms you need to file before you start and view the available Forms and Limitations information on forms that may prevent you from filing electronically.

State Tax Returns: The Free File Software program is free for your current Federal tax return but may not be available for your state tax return. If your state has its own income tax, you may need to do some additional research — some of the software companies offer free filing for state tax returns, and some states have their own Free File systems.

Free File Fillable Forms

No matter your income level, you can use Free File Fillable Forms. These are identical to IRS paper forms, so this option is like the old “pencil and calculator” method of filing. However, the fillable forms don’t come with any additional guidance. If you plan to use this option, you should be comfortable with the process of completing a tax return.

You may find more information on Free File Software and Free File Fillable Forms at IRS.gov Free File.



What should I do?

Prepare to File

First, gather all your tax documents and information.

  1. Income Documents: Gather your income documents (Forms W-2, 1099 and any other records of your income and expenses) and remember to include the income even if you didn’t receive a Form W-2 or 1099.
  2. Deduction and Credit Information: Home mortgage interest, property taxes, day care, and education expenses are common deductions and credits.
  3. If you or a family member was enrolled in health insurance through the Marketplace: Form 1095-A from the Marketplace.
  4. Prior Year Tax Return: You’ll need the personal identification number (PIN) you used or the adjusted gross income from that return.
  5. Social Security Cards: You need a card for each person you’ll list on your tax return – having the card is the best way to verify you have the correct Social Security Number (SSN).
  6. Birthdays: You’ll need the birth dates for you, your spouse and your dependents.

You can find more information on what you need to gather at IRS.gov Free File.

After you file electronically, you should get an email confirming the IRS received and accepted your tax return.

If the IRS rejects your return
If the IRS rejects your tax return, you’ll receive an email. Review your tax return for any mistakes or typographical errors – common mistakes are incorrect SSN’s, names, or dates of birth.  Correct any errors and electronically file again.

If you are 100 percent sure your tax return is correct and the IRS still doesn’t accept the electronically filed tax return, you’ll need to file a paper tax return.

What if I need help?
If you’ve chosen to use Free File Software and are having trouble with the program, contact the customer service unit for the software company.

If you’re having difficulty with IRS Free File Fillable Forms, refer to the User’s Guide on the Free File site.


How will this affect me?

Filing electronically is the safest, easiest, and fastest way to file your tax return. When you file electronically, you’ll get an email confirmation of your tax return being accepted within 24 hours, and get your refund in about 21 days, often faster if you choose direct deposit.

The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (PATH Act) made the following changes, which became effective for the 2017 filing season, to help prevent revenue loss due to identity theft and refund fraud related to fabricated wages and withholdings:

  • The IRS may not issue a credit or refund to you before February 15, if you claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) on your tax return.
  • This change only affects returns claiming EITC or ACTC filed before February 15.
  • The IRS will hold your entire refund, including any part of your refund not associated with the EITC or ACTC.
  • Neither TAS, nor the IRS, can release any part of your refund before that date, even if you’re experiencing a financial hardship.

Wait, I still need help.

The Taxpayer Advocate Service is an independent organization within the IRS that helps taxpayers and protects taxpayers’ rights. We can offer you help if your tax problem is causing a financial difficulty, you’ve tried and been unable to resolve your issue with the IRS, or you believe an IRS system, process, or procedure just isn’t working as it should. If you qualify for our assistance, which is always free, we will do everything possible to help you.

Visit www.taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov or call 1-877-777-4778.

Low Income Taxpayer Clinics (LITCs) are independent from the IRS and TAS. LITCs represent individuals whose income is below a certain level and who need to resolve tax problems with the IRS. LITCs can represent taxpayers in audits, appeals, and tax collection disputes before the IRS and in court. In addition, LITCs can provide information about taxpayer rights and responsibilities in different languages for individuals who speak English as a second language. Services are offered for free or a small fee. For more information or to find an LITC near you, see the LITC page on the TAS website or Publication 4134, Low Income Taxpayer Clinic List.

Resources and Guidance


Did you know there is a Taxpayer Bill of Rights?

The taxpayer Bill of Rights is grouped into 10 easy to understand categories outlining the taxpayer rights and protections embedded in the tax code.

It is also what guides the advocacy work we do for taxpayers.

Read more about your rights