E-File your 1040 EZ Tax form for free online

Some options let you file both federal and state forms at no cost

Last updated: January 17, 2015 06:00 AM

IRS Free File is now officially open, enabling some 70 percent of Americans to begin preparing their federal tax returns online for free. The IRS will begin accepting mailed and e-filed returns on Tuesday, January 20th.

If you want guidance when preparing your federal tax form and your household’s 2014 adjusted gross income was $60,000 or less, you can prepare and file your federal return for free on your computer through IRS Free File. To participate, you must file through a company listed as an "e-file partner" in the Free File section of the IRS website.

Before going to IRS Free File, though, check the website of the taxing authority in your state to see how to qualify for free preparation and filing of your state income tax return. You may have to start there first to prepare e-file everything for free. In New York State, for instance, eligible taxpayers must start at the state’s free filing web page to be linked to the appropriate software, which then handles both state and federal returns for no cost.

See our Income Tax Guide for more advice and tips on preparing, filing and saving on your income tax return.

Free federal and state prep and e-file for some

If your state doesn't offer free e-file, you may find better choices this year outside of Free File.

This year, for instance, TurboTax's Federal Free Edition is offering it free, guided online tax prep service and e-filing for both federal and state returns, regardless of your income. To qualify, though, you must use IRS Forms 1040EZ or 1040A. The free service will import W-2 and 1099 information from participating employers and financial institutions. For other services, including transferring your data from a prior return prepared using TurboTax, you'll have to upgrade to one of its other versions. 

TaxSlayer, another player, offers a free federal and state version for all active duty members of the military. It says its military version supports "all major forms and schedules," including the IRS Form 1040, the "long form."

Smart-phone savvy taxpayers can prepare and e-file both state and federal returns for free on their iPhones and Androids with TaxACT Express. The service covers Form 1040A and 1040EZ, and well as simple versions of Form 1040; however, it appears that the only IRS schedule supported is Schedule EIC for the earned-income tax credit. (TaxACT warns that if you switch over to a browser or tablet app to finish and e-file your form, you're subject to TaxACT's online pricing.) 

Offers from H&R Block and others

H&R Block also offers free preparation and filing of basic IRS forms, including Form 1040A and 1040EZ. Like TurboTax, the service will automatically import info from your W-2. Block's state return is available for $9.99 for folks who e-file through February 15th. Block's website says its free edition also offers free, "live, personal tax advice with a tax professional" via chat and phone, and "in-person audit support." 

Block is also offering to give customers using its free online edition a bonus. For every $100 of their refund that they load onto a participating retailer's gift card, Block will add 5 percent. (It adds 10 percent if you upgrade to another Block product.)  TurboTax has a similar offer through Amazon.com, but not for its free online edition.

If you're not active-duty military, you can still prepare and e-file the simplest, Form 1040EZ for free with TaxSlayer. You can do the same with e-Smart Tax. Both require extra for state prep and e-filing; e-Smart Tax's state form costs a competitive, $9.95.

What's free if you don't qualify for Free File and file a regular 1040?

If your household adjusted gross income is above $60,000 and you need to prepare and e-file a regular Form 1040 and accompanying schedules, check out TaxACT. It offers the widest array of IRS forms and schedules that can be prepared and filed for free. Preparing and e-filing state tax forms on a browser (as opposed to via smart phone) costs $9.99. 

If you don't need help filling out your forms, the IRS now offers free, "fillable" electronic versions of Forms 1040, 1040A, and 1040EZ to all taxpayers, regardless of income. They are available through the Free File section of the IRS website.

—Tobie Stanger

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