How to file your taxes for free

To pay someone to figure out how much you have to pay the government seems like adding insult to injury. For many taxpayers, there's an easier way.

Formed in 2003, IRS Free File is the product of a partnership between the Internal Revenue Service and a group of twelve online tax software suppliers that form the Free File Alliance – including such familiar names as TaxSlayer and H&R Block. Free File was intended to increase electronic filing by making the process easier for a greater number of Americans. Both the tax preparation and the e-filing process are free. "You don't have to be an expert on taxes," says IRS Commissioner John A. Koskinen. "Free File software can help walk you through the steps and help you get it right."

42 PHOTOS
States where Americans pay the highest in state income taxes
See Gallery
States where Americans pay the highest in state income taxes

California

State income tax: 1% to 13.3% 

Maine

State income tax: 5.8% to 10.15%

Oregon

State income tax: 5% to 9.9%

Minnesota

State income tax: 5.35% to 9.85%

Iowa

State income tax: 0.36% to 8.98%

New Jersey

State income tax: 1.4% to 8.97%

Vermont

State income tax: 3.55% to 8.95%

Washington, DC

State income tax: 4% to 8.95%

New York

State income tax: 4% to 8.82%

Hawaii

State income tax: 1.4% to 8.25%

Wisconsin

State income tax: 4% to 7.65%

Idaho

State income tax: 1.6% to 7.4%

South Carolina

State income tax: 0% to 7%

Connecticut

State income tax: 3% to 6.99%

Arkansas

State income tax: 0.9% to 6.9%

Montana

State income tax: 1% to 6.9%

Nebraska

State income tax: 2.46% to 6.84%

Delaware

State income tax: 2.2% to 6.6%

West Virginia

State income tax: 3% to 6.5%

Georgia

State income tax: 1% to 6%

Kentucky

State income tax: 2% to 6%

Louisiana

State income tax: 2% to 6%

Missouri

State income tax: 1.5% to 6%

Rhode Island

State income tax: 3.75% to 5.99%

Maryland

State income tax: 2% to 5.75%

North Carolina

State income tax: 5.75%

Virginia

State income tax: 2% to 5.75%

Oklahoma

State income tax: 0.5% to 5.25%

Massachusetts

State income tax: 5.1%

Alabama

State income tax: 2% to 5%

Mississippi

State income tax: 3% to 5%

Utah

State income tax: 5%

Ohio

State income tax: 0.495% to 4.997%

New Mexico

State income tax: 1.7% to 4.9%

Colorado

State income tax: 4.63%

Kansas

State income tax: 2.7% to 4.6%

Arizona

State income tax: 2.59% to 4.54%

Michigan

State income tax: 4.25%

Illinois

State income tax: 3.75%

Indiana

State income tax: 3.3%

Pennsylvania

State income tax: 3.07%

North Dakota

State income tax: 1.1% to 2.9%

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Over 53 million tax returns have been filed through the Free File system to date. You can use the Free File software if your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) was $66,000 or less for the 2018 tax year. An estimated 70% of American taxpayers fall within this criterion. Taxpayers with an AGI of above $66,000 don't have access to the software, but may use the electronic Free File Fillable forms available on the IRS website.

You will need to gather up a few things before starting the Free File process, just as you would with any filing format.

  • Personal Information– You will need a copy of your tax return for the previous year and valid Social Security numbers for you, your spouse, and your children.

  • Income and Records – Gather all receipts and summary forms pertaining to your income. These include W-2s, all varieties of Form 1099, and the newer forms brought in by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Depending on your status, you may need Form 1095A (Health Insurance Marketplace Statement), Form 8962 (Premium Tax Credit) or Form 8965 (Health Coverage Exemption). The penalty for failing to purchase healthcare insurance is still in effect for tax year 2018, but will be gone from 2019 onwards, thanks to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

    Don't forget to include any other income such as unemployment compensation, rental incomes, partnerships, trusts, S corporations, or Social Security benefits. You will also need the corresponding records for these income sources.

52 PHOTOS
Average tax refund in every U.S. state
See Gallery
Average tax refund in every U.S. state

Texas

Average refund: $3,206

Number of refunds: 10,087,693

Total income tax refunded: $32.3 billion

Louisiana

Average refund: $3,115

Number of refunds: 1,611,412

Total income tax refunded: $5 billion

Connecticut

Average refund: $3,099

Number of refunds: 1,396,609

Total income tax refunded: $4.3 billion

Oklahoma

Average refund: $3,098

Number of refunds: 1,300,577

Total income tax refunded: $4 billion

New York

Average refund: $3,059

Number of refunds: 7,712,210

Total income tax refunded: $23.6 billion

New Jersey

Average refund: $3,013

Number of refunds: 3,479,321

Total income tax refunded: $10.5 billion

Wyoming

Average refund: $2,989

Number of refunds: 214,649

Total income tax refunded: $641.6 million

North Dakota 

Average refund: $2,983

Number of refunds: 277,422

Total income tax refunded: $827.4 million

Florida

Average refund: $2,933

Number of refunds: 7,854,538

Total income tax refunded: $23 billion

Mississippi

Average refund: $2,922

Number of refunds: 1,018,429

Total income tax refunded: $2.97 billion

California

Average refund: $2,911

Number of refunds: 13,594,703

Total income tax refunded: $39.5 billion

Washington D.C.

Average refund: $2,900

Number of refunds: 277,399

Total income tax refunded: $804.5 million

Illinois

Average refund: $2,900

Number of refunds: 4,973,653

Total income tax refunded: $14.4 billion

Maryland

Average refund: $2,861

Number of refunds: 2,329,288

Total income tax refunded: $6.7 billion

Massachusetts

Average refund: $2,850

Number of refunds: 2,704,250

Total income tax refunded: $7.7 billion

Alaska

Average refund: $2,843

Number of refunds: 276,887

Total income tax refunded: $787 million

Nevada

Average refund: $2,830

Number of refunds: 1,111,952

Total income tax refunded: $3 billion

Georgia

Average refund: $2,832

Number of refunds: 3,606,774

Total income tax refunded: $10.2 billion

Alabama

Average refund: $2,802

Number of refunds: 1,650,125

Total income tax refunded: $4.6 billion

Virginia

Average refund: $2,771

Number of refunds: 3,129,030

Total income tax refunded: $8.7 billion

Arkansas

Average refund: $2,759

Number of refunds: 989,288

Total income tax refunded: $2.7 billion

Tennessee

Average refund: $2,726

Number of refunds: 2,465,816

Total income tax refunded: $6.7 billion

Utah

Average refund: $2,681

Number of refunds: 1,033,141

Total income tax refunded: $2.8 billion

Washington

Average refund: $2,681

Number of refunds: 2,749,362

Total income tax refunded: $7.4 billion

Arizona

Average refund: $2,672

Number of refunds: 2,244,925

Total income tax refunded: $6 billion

Kansas

Average refund: $2,665

Number of refunds: 1,044,275

Total income tax refunded: $2.8 billion

New Mexico 

Average refund: $2,657

Number of refunds: 724,549

Total income tax refunded: $1.9 billion

South Dakota

Average refund: $2,651

Number of refunds: 321,372

Total income tax refunded: $852 million

West Virginia

Average refund: $2,649

Number of refunds: 649,049

Total income tax refunded: $1.7 billion

Kentucky

Average refund: $2,648

Number of refunds: 1,590,274

Total income tax refunded: $4.2 billion

Delaware

Average refund: $2,648

Number of refunds: 365,749

Total income tax refunded: $968.4 million

Rhode Island

Average refund: $2,643

Number of refunds: 436,490

Total income tax refunded: $1.1 billion

Pennsylvania

Average refund: $2,643

Number of refunds: 5,071,264

Total income tax refunded: $13.4 billion

Colorado

Average refund: $2,636

Number of refunds: 2,014,233

Total income tax refunded: $5.3 billion

North Carolina

Average refund: $2,629

Number of refunds: 3,580,471

Total income tax refunded: $9.4 billion

Nebraska

Average refund: $2,615

Number of refunds: 711,103

Total income tax refunded: $1.8 billion

Indiana

Average refund: $2,612

Number of refunds: 2,577,994

Total income tax refunded: $6.7 billion

Iowa

Average refund: $2,602

Number of refunds: 1,141,151

Total income tax refunded: $3 billion

New Hampshire

Average refund: $2,602

Number of refunds: 558,359

Total income tax refunded: $1.4 billion

Missouri

Average refund: $2,601

Number of refunds: 2,220,029

Total income tax refunded: $5.7 billion

South Carolina

Average refund: $2,569

Number of refunds: 1,719,299

Total income tax refunded: $4.4 billion

Hawaii

Average refund: $2,564

Number of refunds: 535,763

Total income tax refunded: $1.4 billion

Michigan

Average refund: $2,560

Number of refunds: 3,776,668

Total income tax refunded: $9.7 billion

Ohio

Average refund: $2,517

Number of refunds: 4,570,589

Total income tax refunded: $11.5 billion

Minnesota

Average refund: $2,516

Number of refunds: 2,112,212

Total income tax refunded: $5.3 billion

Idaho

Average refund: $2,457

Number of refunds: 561,133

Total income tax refunded: $1.4 billion

Wisconsin

Average refund: $2,436

Number of refunds: 2,236,886

Total income tax refunded: $5.4 billion

Montana

Average refund: $2,401

Number of refunds: 372,817

Total income tax refunded: $895 million

Oregon

Average refund: $2,398

Number of refunds: 1,431,924

Total income tax refunded: $3.4 billion

Vermont

Average refund: $2,392

Number of refunds: 254,192

Total income tax refunded: $608 million

Maine

Average refund: $2,336

Number of refunds: 509,896

Total income tax refunded: $1.2 billion

Average tax refund by state
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

You can estimate your AGI from last year's form to see if you qualify, or there are several AGI calculators available online to help you with the process. Assuming you qualify and wish to use Free File, follow these simple steps:

  • Go to the IRS Website – Start at www.IRS.gov/freefile, where you can click the designated button to start the Free File process or choose a link that helps you find the best Free File software for you by asking you a series of questions.

    If you bypass the IRS website and go directly to the software vendor sites, the process may not be free. The software vendor may apply fees in that case.

  • Choose Your Vendor – If you did not select the link to help you find the best software, you will be given a menu of links to all the vendors with a summary of their benefits and limitations. Some (but not all) vendors offer free state tax filing services as well, in case you happen to live in a state that collects state income tax. Note: 22 states have their own version of Free File, as well as the District of Columbia.

  • Find Tax Deductions and Credits – The software will lead you through a series of questions and answers to help you identify tax deductions and credits relevant to your situation. Based on your tax breaks, the Free File software will then select the appropriate tax forms and automatically do the calculations.

  • Complete Forms and E-File – Once you have completed your forms, simply submit your form electronically and supply a valid e-mail address to receive the confirmation of your submission. You can track the submission using the "Where's My Refund" function on the IRS website.

  • If you owe money, you have several options – Fees may be incurred depending on the company that you choose. You can set up an electronic funds withdrawal from your bank account, register for the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS) operated by the Treasury Department, or use a credit card.

If you need further help, check to see if Free File is available at your nearest Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) or Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) locations.

For those who qualify, Free File offers a simple, secure, and rapid means of filing your tax forms and receiving your refund as soon as possible. All the members of the Free File Alliance actively participate in the Security Summit Initiative, which provides safeguards against tax identity theft and raises awareness of current ID theft schemes. If you would like to monitor your credit to prevent identity theft, join MoneyTips and check out our Identity Protector tool.

Remember to keep a copy of your tax return for your own records. If this is the first year you are using a tax software product, you may need the AGI amount from last year's tax return as a security precaution to verify your identity.

IRS Free File is available to use now for filing your 2018 taxes. Check the vendor options to see if any of them work for you. Why pay to file your taxes if you don't have to?

Failing to pay your taxes or a penalty you owe could negatively impact your credit score. You can check your credit score and read your credit report for free within minutes by joining MoneyTips.

The 10 Most Overlooked Tax Deductions

Don't overpay taxes by overlooking these tax deductions. See the 10 most common deductions taxpayers miss on their tax returns so you can keep more money in your pocket.

Read More

Brought to you by TurboTax.com

How to Find a Good CPA for Your Taxes

Finding a good CPA for your taxes is simple with these seven tips: 1. Ask about their specialization; 2. Verify their identification number, 3. Look up their license, 4. Consider their experience, 5. Confirm their willingness to sign, 6. Ask for advice, and 7. Determine their fees.

Read More

Brought to you by TurboTax.com

Reporting Self-Employment Business Income and Deductions

Self-employed taxpayers report their business income and expenses on Schedule C. TurboTax can help make the job easier.

Read More

Brought to you by TurboTax.com

2018 Tax Reform Impact: What You Should Know

Congress has passed the largest piece of tax reform legislation in more than three decades. The bill went into place on January 1, 2018, which means that it will affect the taxes of most taxpayers for the 2018 tax year.

Read More

Brought to you by TurboTax.com
Read Full Story
Your resource on tax filing
Tax season is here! Check out the Tax Center on AOL Finance for all the tips and tools you need to maximize your return.