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FreeTaxUSA 2024 Review: The Best Free to Low-Cost Tax Filing Option

This tax software requires tons of manual data entry, but is quite efficient and impressive for the cost.

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FreeTaxUSA offers great value for a low price tag. You can file your federal taxes for free, no matter your situation, and a state return will only run you $14.99.

So even If you have unemployment income, crypto sales, rental property, retirement distributions, health savings accounts, self-employment income or all of the above, you can file a federal return for free. But there is a tradeoff -- you’ll have to fill out most, if not all, of your tax forms manually.

FreeTaxUSA is our pick for the best free to low-cost tax software this year. But with that budget price, you’ll miss out on premium and mostly automated experiences H&R Block and TurboTax, our top pick for best tax software in 2024, provide. 

Despite its extensive contextual help, FreeTaxUSA lacks a wider range of free support tools. For example, you will have to pay $7.99 to file with Deluxe if you want access to a tax specialist through live chat. It’s not a bad price, but free live chat and phone support are available on other tax software. 

What FreeTaxUSA does offer is a clean interface, solid support features and a thorough question-and-answer model that will leave you confident you have maximized your refund.

  • Free federal returns
  • Low-cost state returns
  • Extensive contextual help
  • No restrictions on federal forms
  • State returns cost extra
  • No live chat without upgrade
  • Text-heavy interface

Who should use FreeTaxUSA tax software?

FreeTaxUSA is a no-brainer for taxpayers with simple returns who don’t need to file a state return. Similarly, it’s a great choice if you have multiple 1099 forms, unemployment income or dependents. Each of these tax situations can propel you to a paid tier on services like TurboTax, H&R Block or TaxSlayer.

Tax filers who received long-term care or death benefits, usually from an insurance company or the government, also should consider FreeTaxUSA -- it includes support for Form 1099-LTC, which isn’t available in similar free tax software. And, if you earned significant money in other countries, FreeTaxUSA includes Form 1116 for claiming the foreign tax credit, another form not usually included in free tax software.

Self-employed filers looking for a cheap way to file their taxes could be well served by FreeTaxUSA. Tax prep tiers for gig workers and freelancers are usually the costliest. While FreeTaxUSA doesn’t let you import multiple 1099 forms, you can enter as many as you want, completely free. This is also the case with CashApp Taxes, though the service’s professional tax support is basically nonexistent. Freelancers looking for tax help from a professional well-versed in self-employment taxes may want to consider TaxSlayer, which offers a wider range of services at a decent price. 

Some rare tax situations not covered by FreeTaxUSA include nonresident alien returns (Form 1040NR), at-risk limitations (Form 6198), casualty or theft gain or loss from a business or donations of property over $5,000.

But if you’re looking for free live chat features or a completely free tax filing option, FreeTaxUSA is not for you.

What products does FreeTaxUSA offer?

FreeTaxUSA markets its tax software as four different levels of service: Basic for simple tax returns; Advanced for homeowners and itemized deductions; Premium for landlords and investors; and Self-Employed for freelancers, contractors and gig workers. 

But unlike top competitors, all of FreeTaxUSA’s plans offer free federal returns, which negates the purpose of having tiers to begin with in our opinion. Moreover, the plans all run the same software. Once you get into the tax preparation process, there are no other mentions of the tiers.

The only paid products that FreeTaxUSA actually charges for are:

  • State returns: $14.99 each
  • Deluxe support: $7.99
  • Pro support: $39.99 

How does FreeTaxUSA work?

Like most other tax software, FreeTaxUSA starts you off by letting you import a PDF of your prior year’s tax return or collecting your personal information manually. 

New this year to FreeTaxUSA is a beta version of W-2 form upload, a much-welcomed addition to the service. This feature worked pretty well for me, with the exception of it asking for some information in my W-2 it did not capture automatically. You’ll still have to manually complete other tax forms you need as part of your return, which can be a pain, especially for filers with more complicated returns.

Screenshot of W-2 upload screen on FreeTaxUSA
Screenshot by Danni Santana/CNET

On the plus side, FreeTaxUSA’s free integrated help features are impressive and in most cases are enough to file your taxes completely on your own. 

Contextual questions in its support center -- found by clicking on the support tab on the upper right hand portion of the screen -- provide valuable, straightforward information in popovers that don’t launch new tabs or browser windows. Click “Where Do I Enter…?” on the support page for shortcuts to dozens of pages explaining what different IRS forms are for, how to best utilize them and how to enter the right information needed to complete them.  

FreeTaxUSA’s software does lack the graphical interfaces of higher-priced competitors that simplify the process. For example, the online software explains the differences in tax filing statuses, but instead of making a recommendation, it leaves it up to you to select your filing status. 

Despite this, I found FreeTaxUSA’s guided question-and-answer process to be well-organized and efficient. The software often marks the most likely answers for some of the less common tax questions so you can easily click through forms.

The navigation of FreeTaxUSA is split up into personal info, income, deductions/credits, miscellaneous, summary, state and final steps. The drop-down menus for each section provide a detailed list of what’s included, but you can’t jump ahead to other sections until you reach them via the guided process. This is a feature we wish FreeTaxUSA had, and is something we appreciate when using H&R Block and TaxSlayer

As FreeTaxUSA’s software guides you through each section, you’ll be asked a series of yes or no questions to help determine what tax forms you need to fill out. You can also just click the forms you know you need from the drop-down menu. At the end of each section you will come across a summary page of what you entered to confirm it is correct.

FreeTaxUSA doesn’t have a dedicated mobile app, but the browser-based mobile version works well. Data from my return synced instantly between my mobile device and computer. Both its mobile and desktop offerings include a link to your 1040 form as you complete your taxes, letting you easily preview or download the form as it currently stands.

Are FreeTaxUSA Deluxe and Pro Support worth the cost?

You’re unlikely to need FreeTaxUSA Deluxe or Pro Support if you have experience filing your own taxes online. But for those with complicated tax situations, Deluxe and Pro Support can offer great value. 

For $7.99, FreeTaxUSA Deluxe gets you unlimited amended returns, live chat and priority support. Live Chat is available Monday through Saturday between 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. until April 30.

Pro Support offers everything Deluxe does, plus personal tax advice, phone support and live screen share with a tax professional. Filers start off working on their return on their own and can schedule a call with a tax pro at any time.  Pro Support will cost $39.99, a fraction of the cost of similar services provided by TurboTax and H&R Block.

Other notable FreeTaxUSA features

FreeTaxUSA keeps an old-school bookmark tag on every page of the tax return process, letting you mark specific sections or pages to complete or review later. I like the feature in general, but because you cannot jump ahead to say the deductions section before completing income, I don’t think it’s a feature many filers will use.

Screenshot of FreeTaxUSA online software
Screenshot by Danni Santana/CNET

FreeTaxUSA displays a running total of your expected refund, which is similar to other software. You can receive your refund with FreeTaxUSA by direct deposit, check in the mail or transfer to a prepaid debit card.

FreeTaxUSA also offers a Refund Maximizer feature that reviews your existing deductions and forms and asks additional questions that might increase your refunds. It includes a helpful checklist of IRS forms you may have missed, but the feature overall is not as slick or as integrated as TaxAct’s similar Deduction Maximizer feature.

FreeTaxUSA additionally offers a maximum refund guarantee that gives a full refund to customers plus a coupon for an amended tax return if any other tax filing method results in a larger refund. An accuracy guarantee also ensures that FreeTaxUSA will reimburse you for any penalties or interest that result from any miscalculation in the software. Audit defense is also available for $19.99. It lasts three years for federal returns and four years for state returns. 

Is FreeTaxUSA right for me?

FreeTaxUSA’s tax software doesn’t provide the sort of hand-holding that top tax software does. But it includes well-organized and contextual tax help that provides straightforward answers to your tax questions. 

Its unrestricted offerings for all tax filers make it worthy of consideration for anyone looking to file their taxes on the cheap. While tax filers will still need to run through the gauntlet of usual tax questions, FreeTaxUSA’s clean, stripped-down process lets them get the job done efficiently and add professional support for a fraction of the price that the big boys charge.

The editorial content on this page is based solely on objective, independent assessments by our writers and is not influenced by advertising or partnerships. It has not been provided or commissioned by any third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.

Danni Santana has spent seven years as an editor and business journalist covering industries like sports, retail, restaurants, and now personal finance. Most recently he worked as a retail editor at Business Insider. He is a graduate of the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY. His biggest loves outside of the newsroom include, running, cooking, playing video games and collecting sneakers.
Peter is a writer and editor for the CNET How-To team. He has been covering technology, software, finance, sports and video games since working for @Home Network and Excite in the 1990s. Peter managed reviews and listings for Download.com during the 2000s, and is passionate about software and no-nonsense advice for creators, consumers and investors.
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