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How to file taxes online in 2022

Tax season 2022
For most Americans, Tax Day 2022 will arrive April 18. If recent history is an indication, all but a slim percentage will e-file their returns.  Will & Deni McIntyre/Getty Images

Tax season is on. The IRS began accepting and processing federal income returns for the latest tax year on January 24. Between now and Monday, April 18, which is the filing deadline for most Americans, nearly all taxpayers will submit their taxes electronically. (Taxpayers in Maine or Massachusetts have until Tuesday, April 19, 2022, to file their returns due to the Patriots' Day holiday in those states. Those who request an extension in 2022 will have to file by Monday, October 17, 2022.)

When it comes to e-filing, also known as online filing, there seem to be as many options to get the job done as there are forms to fill out. Which online filing option is right for you may depend on your income, your budget, the complexity of your return -- and perhaps your patience for filling out forms. Here's a look at options, including IRS Free File and TurboTax, that should work for just about every and any kind of taxpayer. 

IRS Free File  

How do you file online taxes for free in 2022?
IRS.gov (screenshot)

In 2020, a U.S. watchdog agency found that fewer than 3% of the 104 million U.S. taxpayers who could've filed free online returns through IRS Free File took advantage of the program. Don't leave free services on the table this year. If you're looking to e-file your federal return, then you may want to make IRS Free File your first stop. As CBS News noted, the IRS-backed program is the "only sure way" to file a free federal return. 

This year, IRS Free File is open to all U.S. taxpayers whose 2021 adjusted gross incomes were $73,000 or less. And it doesn't matter if you're reporting unemployment income or capital gains: If you meet the program's income eligibility, then IRS Free File will find you an online service that'll do your tax math, answer so-called "simple" questions and submit your returns -- all for free.

One important note: The IRS says some of its IRS Free File partners may have lower income thresholds than $73,000. But the bureau pledges that it'll get at least one match for everyone who earned up to $73,000. And if you're active-duty military? Then, provided your income was $73,000 or less, all IRS Free File programs will be open to you. For the 2022 tax season, eight companies are participating in IRS Free File, including some names you may recognize, such as TaxAct and TaxSlayer.

The easiest way to see what's available to you via IRS Free File is to go to the IRS website. Enter your age, state of residence, adjusted gross income and a couple of other details. The system will show you which of its tax-prep partners are a match for you. Some of the affiliated providers will even do state returns for free.


TurboTax

TurboTax
Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

Intuit's TurboTax is the giant in the tax-prep space, scoring 73% of sales in last year's tax high season, per the data analytics outfit Bloomberg Second Measure. Its services are basically divided into two areas: do-it-yourself online taxes; and tax-pro-assisted online taxes. 

In the do-it-yourself bucket, you can e-file a federal return for $0 via its "Free Edition" service now through March 31 -- provided, that is, the only form you need to file is a 1040. If you've got itemized deductions, schedules, or unemployment income (as reported on a 1099-G), then you'll probably need at least the TurboTax "Deluxe" tier, currently being offered for $39 (regularly priced at $59).  

Other TurboTax packages are "Premier" ($69, currently marked down from $89) and "Self-Employed" ($89, currently discounted from $119). As its name indicates, "Self-Employed" is recommended for those reporting self-employment income and expenses. All the do-it-yourself tiers, from "Deluxe" on up, carry additional fees for e-filing state tax returns (you can print out your state tax return from TurboTax and mail it in yourself to avoid the fee).

There are a few potential benefits to using a paid TurboTax package over IRS Free File -- the software can help you discover deductions you may have missed, and will warn you about your level of audit risk. If you want an even more guided experience, TurboTax offers its "Basic," "Deluxe," "Premier" and "Self-Employed" tiers with either access to a tax pro who'll give you advice (the cheaper option, called TurboTax Live), or a tax pro who'll straight up do your taxes for you (the more expensive option, called TurboTax Live Full Service). 

All TurboTax packages, including "Deluxe," "Premier" and "Self-Employed," are billed as "start for free," which appears to mean no money is paid up front. ("Pay only when you file," the site says.) 

TurboTax file-your-own-taxes packages, $0 to $89


H&R Block

H&R Block
Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

H&R Block offers four online filing options. They're called "Free Online," "Deluxe," "Premium" and "Self-Employed." 

"Free Online," which is billed as costing $0, is for those with super-simple returns, such as W-2 income only. Unlike TurboTax, H&R Block's no-charge tier works for people with unemployment income, too. The H&R Block site says the cost of a state return at this level is likewise $0. H&R Block is also offering 0% tax refund advance loans, up to $3,500, through February 28. (Restrictions will apply.)

For those with itemized deductions, a Health Savings Account (HSA) and/or real-estate deductions, H&R Block customers will want to look at the "Deluxe" level and above. Live tech support is included in the "Deluxe," "Premium" and "Self-Employed" packages; all three are currently on sale, too. Like TurboTax, H&R Block bills all of its pay packages as being "start for free."    

H&R Block, from $0 to $85


TaxAct

TaxAct
TaxAct (screenshot)

After TurboTax and H&R Block, TaxAct is the next-biggest tax-prep software service. Among the big three, TaxAct is the only one currently affiliated with IRS Free File. In addition to providing that service to qualified taxpayers, TaxAct boasts a range of online-filing packages for any and all customers, regardless of income bracket.

Like TurboTax and H&R Block, TaxAct has a free tier (literally named "Free") that covers those with straight-forward returns – W-2 income, unemployment income and the like. A state return at this level costs $35 per state filed.

The other TaxAct packages are: "Deluxe" ($25); "Premier" ($35); and, "Self Employed" ($65). At each of these levels, a state return, if requested, costs $45 per state filed. 

All four packages, including "Free," come complete with access to over-the-phone tax experts. And, yes, all of TaxAct's premium packages are billed as being "start for free."

TaxAct, from $0 to $65


Free File Fillable Forms 

Free File Fillable Forms
FreeFileFillableForms.com (screenshot)

Free File Fillable Forms is a sister service of IRS Free File; it's open to all taxpayers, including those who made more than $73,000 in 2021. Like IRS Free File, it's a completely free online-filing option. 

A seasonal program, Free File Fillable Forms is open every year from roughly mid-January to mid-October. It's an online repository of every and any form you'll need for a federal return. Once you're finished with your work, you may electronically sign the return, and submit it via the site. 

Free File Fillable Forms definitely has its limitations: It doesn't give advice; it doesn't do state returns; it doesn't allow you to do federal returns for anything but the current tax year; it doesn't let you do revisions once you've filed; and, as the IRS cautions, it doesn't do an "extensive" math check on your numbers.  


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