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List of Free Tax Preparation Services
Posted By Jim On 02/05/2008 @ 6:06 am In Taxes | 21 Comments
I bet the first thing you thought after you screamed “Happy New Year!” was how it was now time to do your taxes. (no? me neither) Unfortunately, it’s now February and it’s time to start thinking about doing taxes! Wheee! To help you along, I wanted to outline all the free resources you have for tax preparation. By this I mean I’m listing every single way I think you can get absolutely free tax preparation based on your financial situation. Some tax prep companies offer free tax filing if your situation is simple (1040EZ, or plain 1040), the IRS offers free tax filing if your adjusted gross income was under $54,000 in 2007 (it’s through third party companies), and some other companies offer free tax preparation for their customers as a fringe benefit. I’ll try to list them all. If I miss one that you know of (one that expands on the group of eligible taxpayers, we don’t need another company that offers free tax prep for the same groups already covered below), please leave a comment or email me and I’ll add to this list.
Companies don’t do things out of the goodness of their hearts, so where’s the catch? It appears that many of these companies offer free federal tax filing in the hopes that you’ll sign up for their state tax filing services too. With many of the programs it’s easy for them (and thus easier for you) to transfer the data over and recalculate for your state taxes. They also hope to capture you as a recurring customer since your tax information will be stored in their databases and thus you’ll have a history with them. Finally, some will try to make money off services such as “refund anticipation loans” or “money back loans.” Those “loans” are horrible deals for the consumer, which means they make tax prep companies lots of money. (If you e-file, the IRS estimates that it takes around 8-15 days with direct deposit to get your tax rebate!)
I haven’t tried them all, but William Perez of About.com has tried a few and wrote about their advantages and disadvantages . I don’t know how accurate that article is because it’s not dated, but it’s a start. I think that most of the major companies are going to give you great free service. The field is simply too competitive for them to risk standing up a sub-par “free” version. Today’s free customer is tomorrow’s paying customer. If my free experience is bad, there will never be a paid experience!
Now, onto the offers!
The IRS freefile program  is designed for those with an AGI under $54,000 in 2007 and some of the companies that offer these services also put age restrictions as well. For example, Free1040TaxReturn.com states: “Free Federal online tax preparation and e-File if your adjusted gross income is $54,000 or less and you are age 49 or under.” (emphasis mine) I suspect that has to deal more with handling the added complexities of Social Security and Medicare and isn’t age discrimination. With any of those companies listed, you’ll definitely get free federal tax filing and e-filing; you may have to pay extra for state. The IRS also offers a wizard  to help determine which company is best for you.
One caveat is that not every company listed follows the $54,000 AGI rule the same way. As you’ll see in the description below of TurboTax’s offering, the $54,000 AGI rule only applies to active duty military.
TurboTax  offers free tax filing if you:
As an added bonus, you get free state filing if you live in Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, North Dakota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Islane, South Carolina, Vermont, or West Virginia.
What does TurboTax cover in their free version? Your standard 1040, 1040A, and 1040EZ forms along with a bunch of schedules. They provide a list of what’s covered in the free version . The first part of that list shows the included forms, the second part shows the forms not included. One notable form excluded from the free filing is Schedule D: Capital Gains and Losses.
TaxAct  offers free federal tax filing of 1040, 1040A, and 1040EZ along with free e-filing, with no income restrictions (state filing is, as expected, extra). I was wondering if they had any catches (I realize they say “no catches! no gimmicks!” but c’mon… who takes marketing at face value!?) and discovered this list of “Included IRS Forms .” From what I can tell, it contains everything I could possibly need including Schedule C: Profit/Loss from Business. In fact, I wrote up this review of TaxAct and give it a B+  back in March of 2005. It’s nearly three years later, I might have to try them again and update that review.
State Farm is offering free tax filing through TurboTax  for its customers.
If you’re just looking for a little extra help but not full blown preparation (or you don’t qualify for any of the above programs), you can turn to the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program or the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) Program if you qualify. To learn more about either program and their criteria, please visit this IRS page .
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 Email: mailto:?subject=http://www.bargaineering.com/articles/list-of-free-tax-preparation-services.html
 wrote about their advantages and disadvantages: http://taxes.about.com/od/preparingyourtaxes/tp/freefile.htm
 IRS freefile program: http://www.irs.gov/app/freeFile/jsp/index.jsp?ck
 wizard: http://www.irs.gov/app/freeFile/jsp/wizard.jsp?ck
 TurboTax: http://www.bargaineering.com/articles/r/turbotax.php?tag=freeprep
 list of what’s covered in the free version: http://turbotax.intuit.com/taxfreedom/qualify/forms.jhtml
 TaxAct: http://www.bargaineering.com/articles/r/taxact.php?tag=freeprep
 Included IRS Forms: http://www.taxact.com/products/all_forms.asp?s=OLSTD&yr=07
 review of TaxAct and give it a B+: http://www.bargaineering.com/articles/free-tax-preparation-software-taxact-product-review.html
 free tax filing through TurboTax: http://dailymoneyhack.com/state-farm-customers-file-taxes-for-free.htm
 IRS page: http://www.irs.gov/individuals/article/0,,id=107626,00.html
Thank you for reading!