It's that dreaded time of year again. No, I don't mean the three months you have between the realization about what all that winter comfort food did to your waistline and bikini season. The tax-return deadline is right around the corner.

In general, you qualify to file free if you're an individual or family who had a combined income of $58,000 or less in 2014. It's the other bells and whistles, which the IRS's option doesn't have, that may be different from company to company. Some companies may even have free filing options for those who make more.

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TaxACT will let you e-file simple and complex tax returns for free, regardless of your age or income level. It guarantees 100 percent accuracy and even gives free tax help and audit support. Filing your state taxes does cost $20 per state. It also has inexpensive deluxe options that include extra calculators and reports, bonus support options and the maximization of certain types of deductions. Multiple refund options include the typical direct deposit option, but you can also purchase U.S. Savings Bonds in $50 increments or get your refund via a prepaid Visa debit card.


Volunteer Tax Assistance

Believe it or not, the IRS actually sponsors free tax help for low- to moderate-income families. If you qualify, volunteer tax counselors can help you file your own taxes and provide free basic income tax help. They won't be able to help you with state taxes, but they can offer you e-filing options, which help you get your refund (if you have one coming) faster. There's also a tax counseling for the elderly option for those 60 years of age or older that specializes in answering questions specific to seniors.

3 has handy checklists to help you gather everything up front, and it saves your work in case you do need a break. The software has error checkers and calculators to help you reduce the chances of making an error. This one does allow you to file your state taxes (even multiple state tax returns) for free so long as your adjusted gross household income is less than $60,000 for the tax year in question.


eSmart Tax

This option is about the same in terms of price for state returns as TaxACT ($23). The eSmart Tax free option only supports the Form 1040EZ, but upgrades are fairly inexpensive ($25 for a 1040 and Schedule B plus the ability to itemize deductions).


H&R Block

HRB doesn't just offer in-person preparation. You can use its free e-filing tool and get automated help and credit checks. You only get one session of live help via chat or e-mail, though. You'll pay about $30 for your state preparation.



Probably the most recognizable online tax filing service, TurboTax will more than likely be more expensive for those who need to do state taxes. It's almost double that of TaxACT, but it does have a really simple question-and-answer interface and live chat tax advice. There are additional packages available for those who need them, which range up to $100 for federal returns. These more advanced deduction and donation calculators are for those with more complicated tax returns.


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