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Tax Season 2023: File Your Taxes for Free With This IRS Program

Learn how you can file your federal return with a top tax-prep company at no charge.

Dan Avery Writer
Dan is a writer on CNET's How-To team. His byline has appeared in The New York Times, Newsweek, NBC News, Architectural Digest and elsewhere. He is a crossword junkie and is interested in the intersection of tech and marginalized communities.
Expertise Personal Finance, Government and Policy, Consumer Affairs
Dan Avery
3 min read

Taxpayers who earn $73,000 or less qualify for free filing services.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Tax Day is almost here. But if you haven't prepared your return yet, you should know that there's a program that allows millions of Americans to file their federal tax return for free.

IRS Free File is a partnership between the IRS and seven of the country's biggest online tax-prep companies. If your adjusted gross income last year was under $73,000, you can use Free File to process and submit a simple return for free. (Some participating companies will even process your state return.) 
Close to 70% of taxpayers qualify for Free File, according to the IRS. But less than 2% have taken advantage of the program since it launched in 2003. 
Here's what you need to know about Free File, including who qualifies for it, what it can do and what you'll need to use it.

What is IRS Free File?

IRS Free File is a nonprofit partnership between the IRS and the Free File Alliance, a group of commercial tax-prep companies that have agreed to process and file federal returns electronically at no charge. (Some may also offer free state returns.) 

If you use Free File, you'll be directed to one of these companies' sites to complete your return with step-by-step instructions.

  • 1040Now.net
  • ezTaxReturn.com (in English and Spanish)
  • FileYourTaxes.com
  • OnLine Taxes
  • TaxAct
  • FreeTaxUSA
  • TaxSlayer

Note: Intuit TurboTax withdrew from the program in 2021.

Who qualifies for IRS Free File?

Participating tax-preparation providers set their own eligibility rules, but individuals whose adjusted gross income was $73,000 or less in 2022 will likely find an offer they qualify for.

The system is only set up to process relatively simple returns.

If you make more than $73,000, the IRS still provides fillable forms to let you file your federal taxes online, though there is no step-by-step guidance.

How does IRS Free File work?

The Free File program can answer basic questions, perform calculations and file your federal return with the IRS.

"Our software offers step-by-step help to get your federal taxes done quickly, safely, securely and at absolutely no cost," Free File Alliance director Tim Hugo said in a statement. 

You can access the program on your computer, smartphone or tablet. It cannot be done in person, though, or through the mail.  In addition, Free File can't be used to submit returns for any year prior to 2022.

To file with IRS Free File, you'll need:

  • Income statements (W2s, 1099s, etc.)
  • Social Security numbers for you and any relevant spouse or dependents
  • Your 2021 tax return in order to access your Adjusted Gross Income

Once you have your documentation: 

1. Go to the IRS Free File website.

2. Click the "Use Free Guided Tax Preparation" button. Then hit "Start lookup tool" under IRS Free File Online Lookup Tool for help in finding the right product.

3. You can also use the Browse All Offers tool to review each offer.

4. Select the best product.

5. Follow the links to the provider's website to begin your tax return.

Is IRS Free File really free?

According to the IRS, you can't be asked to buy any products or services in exchange for having a federal tax return prepared by a participant in the Free File program.

You may, however, be charged to file a state return.

For more tax tips,
 discover what to do if you haven't received your W-2, learn about tax credits for homeowners and get the download on the best tax software for 2023.