Best Free DIY Tax Software - Updated for 2022
It’s that time of the year again: tax season. The deadline to file your 2021 taxes is April 18, 2022. Although the 2021 tax year isn’t expected to be quite as chaotic as last year (2020), there are still a number of new tax laws and updated provisions that taxpayers will need to pay attention to. And if your goal is to streamline and simplify the process, you’ll need the right tax preparation software. Below, we share our picks for the best free (or almost free) tax software programs and what makes each one unique, so you can choose the one that’s right for you.
Here's our list of the best free tax filing options:
Best overall: TurboTax Free Edition
Intuit’s TurboTax is widely known as the gold standard for DIY tax prep. With a customer-friendly interface and 24/7 online support, it regularly tops many “best of” lists each tax season. If you have a basic W-2 and intend to file a Form 1040, TurboTax is free. You can also use the free version to claim the earned income tax credit, deduct student loan interest and reconcile your advanced child tax credits.
However, keep in mind that TurboTax is only free for filers whose taxes are very simple. If you’re self-employed, earn 1099 income or have itemized deductions or schedules 1, 2 or 3 of Form 1040, you’ll need to upgrade to a paid version.
TurboTax advantages at a glance:
- Easy to Use
- Q&A format provides simple, intuitive navigation
- Guaranteed accuracy and maximum refund
- Highly rated customer service
Best user experience: H&R Block Free Online
“Overall, H&R Block offers one of the better tax software programs around,” according to Money Under 30. “The free version is extremely comprehensive; if you need more than a free tax software, H&R Block isn’t the cheapest, but it’ll give you the level of performance and confidence you’ll need to prepare your returns.”
For the 2021 tax season, H&R Block’s free version now allows Form 1040 Schedule 1, which includes deductions for student loans and tuition fees, plus free support for the child tax credit and earned income tax credit. This means that if your taxes are relatively simple aside from a few certain important deductions, you can still use the free version.
H&R Block advantages at a glance:
- Well-designed, intuitive interface with excellent navigation
- Certain itemized tax deductions such as student loan interest available with the free version
- Option to meet a tax preparation expert in person
- Mobile app makes it easy to upload information
Best for self-employed: Cash App Taxes (previously Credit Karma Tax)
Now in its fifth year, the recently renamed Cash App Taxes is the only software that’s 100% free for both state and federal tax returns — really! If you’re comfortable handling your own taxes and you don’t need to file multiple state tax returns, Cash App Taxes is a great choice. What’s more, the software is easy to use, guiding filers through the process and offering simple explanations that demystify confusing tax jargon along the way.
Cash App Taxes advantages at a glance:
- Totally free
- Highly rated by customers (4.8 out of 5 for over three million users)
- Get your refund two days earlier via the Cash App Taxes app
- Maximum refund guarantee and free audit support
Best bargain provider: TaxAct Free Edition
TaxAct is a DIY tax leader. Though it does offer a free version, TaxAct stands out because its paid versions are significantly cheaper than those of its competitors, particularly TurboTax and H&R Block. If you’re looking for advanced tax software with an affordable price tag — and you don’t mind a sparse interface — TaxAct could be your ideal option. In addition, TaxAct offers free federal and state filing if you meet certain criteria (56 years old or younger with an adjusted gross income of less than $65,000).
TaxAct advantages at a glance:
- Good for affordable DIY tax filing
- Free one-on-one tax expert help for all filers
- Manually import your information from other services
- Free mobile filing with the TaxAct app
Best for simple tax returns: TaxSlayer Simply Free
TaxSlayer offers the same standard amenities as its competitors for its free package. If your tax situation is simple — e.g., your taxable income is less than $100,000 and you’re not claiming dependents — TaxSlayer’s free offering is a good choice. However, if you need guidance, you can opt for one of TaxSlayer’s paid support tiers. What sets TaxSlayer apart from other programs is that the paid levels are based on the level of support you need rather than other standard extras.
TaxSlayer “doesn’t blow competition like TurboTax and H&R Block out of the water, but it’s superior in several important ways. Most notably, it’s cheaper than many better-known alternatives,” says Brian Martucci at Money Crashers. In addition to free federal filing, TaxSlayer includes one free state return.
TaxAct advantages at a glance:
- Affordable pricing based on the level of support you want
- Handy features like embedded “learn more” links
- Can import data from previous tax years for free
- Free version (Simply Free) is great for seasoned filers with easy taxes
Best for-pay service: Jackson Hewitt
This one’s a bit of a cheat since Jackson Hewitt doesn’t actually offer a free tax filing tier. However, their online DIY tax service is available for a flat rate of $25 for both state and federal taxes — one of the cheapest around. Jackson Hewitt also offers online chat support, a helpful wizard that asks you questions and, if you really get stuck, you can take your tax return (for a fee) to one of their many brick-and-mortar offices for assistance.
Jackson Hewitt advantages at a glance:
- File multiple state returns at no added cost
- Online chat support to help guide you through the process
- In-office access to a tax professional if needed
- Great option if your taxes are simple but you don’t qualify for a free service
Best for comparing software options: Internal Revenue Service Free File
The United States government offers free online filing through a host of partner providers. To qualify for one of the free services, your adjusted gross income (AGI) must be $73,000 or less. If you earn more than that, you can still fill out forms such as Form 1040 online for free as long as you’re able to prepare your own tax return.
Internal Revenue Service Free File advantages at a glance:
- Free if your AGI is $73,000 or less
- Free fillable online tax forms available to all filers
- Lets you compare free filing offers and options all in one place
- Offers e-filing with direct deposit
The Bottom Line
When you’re choosing a DIY tax option, consider how you’ll use the program and where you need help the most. If you’re filing for the first time, a program with a guided wizard may be your best bet to avoid costly mistakes. But if you’re a tax pro yourself, you could save time (and money) by opting for something simpler. No matter what method you choose, be sure to pay your taxes on time to avoid penalties and plan for a healthy financial future.
Free Tax Software FAQs
Can I file my taxes for free with the IRS?
If your adjusted gross income is $73,000 or less, you can file your taxes for free with the IRS. Find a provider with the IRS Free File Online: Lookup Tool.
Is free tax software really free?
There are a number of tax software providers that offer totally free filing, such as Cash App Taxes and TurboTax. In order to qualify, you typically need to meet certain criteria and/or be able to prepare your taxes on your own.
If I file online, how long will it take to get my tax refund?
According to the IRS, you should expect to receive your tax refund in 21 days. However, there may be delays due to pandemic processing issues. If your refund is overdue, you can check its status at Where’s My Refund.