I tried 11 websites that let you file your taxes online for free - and there's something for everybody

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woman computer laptop working tech Sorbis/Shutterstock Don't pay to file your tax return if you can free file instead.

  • Eligible taxpayers can file their tax return online for free using many different services.
  • Tax season officially began January 29, with a final deadline of April 17 this year.
  • The IRS recommends e-filing your taxes and requesting your refund via direct deposit.
  • Business Insider decided to try the free file version of several online tax services.


Tax day is just around the corner.

Americans have until April 17 to file their 2017 taxes. You won't have to worry about changes brought about by the new GOP tax bill , which President Donald Trump signed into law. It won't affect your tax return this year, and the new tax brackets will only affect income earned starting January 1, 2018. 

Still, you should start tackling your taxes as soon as possible. According to Business Insider's Lauren Lyons Cole , filing early is the best way to protect against tax scams - especially potential identity theft.

Many online tax services offer the option to file for your federal taxes - and sometimes state taxes - for free, as long as you meet certain age and salary requirements. You can check your options using the IRS free file lookup tool  - and you can find all of the free online sites here .

The IRS also says the fastest way to get your tax refund is the method already used by most taxpayers: filing electronically and selecting direct deposit as the method for receiving your refund. Your refund should hit your bank account within three weeks of filing online. Often, you'll get your money even faster.

I previously compared two online filing giants, TurboTax and H&R Block , head to head. Then I checked out a number of sites that provide free - or mostly free - tax-filing services.

Here's what I thought of all of the sites, which are listed in no particular order:

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FreeTaxUSA

FreeTaxUSA

After my comparison of H&R Block and TurboTax came out, a reader reached out to tell me that FreeTaxUSA was another good option for people who want to file their taxes without having their intelligence insulted (his words, not mine).

That's a pretty good way of describing this site. It's straightforward and plainspoken, in terms of its layout and content. You can file your federal taxes for free, but filing your state taxes will cost you $12.95.

According to the IRS, to file your taxes for free at Free Tax USA you must:

  • Have adjusted gross income of $51,000 or less
  • Be between 17 and 61 years of age

You're required to sign up for an account right off the bat. The site is streamlined — you go through tabs dedicated to your personal information, income, deductions and credits, and, ultimately, state taxes. At the same time, you're able to hop between sections.

The formatting is basic, but easy-to-use. That works for me. Overall, I found this to be a good option, especially for experienced tax filers who know what they're doing and don't want a lot of hand-holding.

TaxSlayer

TaxSlayer

I found TaxSlayer to be a more minimalist experience. It also requires you to start a new profile before embarking on your tax quest. Right off the bat, they try to get you to upgrade, but many taxpayers won't need to do so.

According to the IRS, to file your taxes for free at TaxSlayer you must:

  • Have adjusted gross income of $66,000 or less
  • Be 52 years old or younger

Apparently, there's a free state option for folks in Georgia too, according to the IRS.

My one issue with TaxSlayer was the site made it pretty difficult to jump around. It's definitely a good choice for more linear-minded people who prefer to do things in order.

TaxAct

TaxAct

Like many of these sites, TaxAct allows you to import your old returns, which is nice. This site takes you through several tabs. One quibble: when you click out of a tab, your info is saved, but it forces you to click through the whole section again when you return.

Despite the limited mobility, TaxAct's site isn't confusing to use. It's just more linear. It also doesn't try to pressure you to upgrade as much as some of the other sites.

According to the IRS, to file your taxes for free at TaxAct you must:

  • Have adjusted gross income of $53,000 or less
  • Be 56 years old or younger

Anyone eligible for the earned income tax credit can also receive a free federal return.

H&R Block

H&R Block

I previously wrote a play-by-play of using H&R Block to file my taxes for free.

Anyone with an adjusted gross income of $66,000 or less between the ages of 17 and 50 can use it for free.

To recap, I found their free tax service straightforward and easy to use. I especially liked that it doesn't make you set up an account right away, if you don't want to. It also answers a ton of questions along the way, which makes it hard to get lost.

Altogether, I'd say H&R Block is easy to use and streamlined. It's one of the most popular tax services out there for a reason.

TurboTax

TurboTax

I also gave TurboTax a try. After all, it's the service I used to file my taxes for free last year.

TurboTax was easy-to-use throughout my practice run. I liked that it was able to seamlessly answer my questions without overloading me with information.

TurboTax is a bit intense when trying to get you to upgrade, but it also is a pretty seamless user experience. Like H&R Block, going through it instills a sort of confidence in you. It automatically answered a ton questions that I had, which was reassuring.

According to the IRS, anyone with an adjusted gross income of $33,000 or less, or anyone who's eligible for the earned income tax credit can use the site to free file their taxes.

1040.com

1040.com

Out of all of the sites, I'd say 1040.com was the biggest surprise.

I thought it was well-designed. Moreover, using it didn't feel like a slog. It whisks you through questions, and makes it feel like you're going through your return at a brisk pace.

That being said, this sort of fast-paced, minimalist approach probably isn't for anyone. I also might've been biased, because I've been going through so many free tax sites that 1040.com's interface felt like a mercy.

According to the IRS, to file your taxes for free at 1040.com you must:

  • Have adjusted gross income of $60,000 or less
  • Be 52 years old or younger

Anyone eligible for the earned income tax credit can also receive a free federal return.

OLT.com

OLT.com

OLT.com doesn't come with any age requirements, but you need to earn between $14,000 and $66,000 to qualify for a free return.

This site struck me as... okay? I don't have much to say about it, other than it's relatively straightforward, in terms of the process. It's also annoying that you can't skip around, and the website isn't superb.

FileYourTaxes.com

FileYourTaxes.com

FileYourTaxes.com provides free federal returns for anyone between 15 and 65 making between $9,000 and $66,000.

After you set up your account, one of the first pages you land on is a series of buttons asking whether or not you want to subscribe to certain messages. That felt a bit spammy and clunky.

This site also made me write my own security questions. That was annoying. I know I sound super lazy, but I've just gone through 11 tax sites. My brain is mush. I simply don't want have to do more work on top of filing my taxes.

I did like how they kept a status of your submissions up front. But overall, the site felt windy and not up-to-date.

eSmart

eSmart

Filing your federal return on ESmart is free for anyone 54 and younger making $66,000 or less.

This was overall, a very form-based site. It takes you from page to page where you're supposed to fill out these big forms.

Of course, you're entering the same information that you would on all of the other sites. But design-wise, this one felt exhausting to me at times. That could just be my personal preference, though.

ezTaxReturn.com

ezTaxReturn.com

You have to live in certain states in order to file your federal return for free using ezTaxReturn.com, and you also must earn $66,000 or less.

This website isn't hard to use. It's odd in that it kicks things off by asking you some weirdly specific questions about whether you earn income through farming, estates, or corporate partnerships.

It also interestingly assumes you're going to say "no" to a lot. When I went through it, the "no" option was already checked on questions about whether I'm blind or whether I want to donate $3 to the presidential election campaign fund. In my case, it anticipated my response correctly.

1040NOW.NET

1040NOW.NET

At the risk of sounding like a web design snob, I've got to say 1040NOW.NET is pretty cheesy looking. It looks like it's gone without updates since 2005.

But the home page does break down who qualifies to use 1040NOW.NET right off the bat, based on salary, state, and other factors. That's helpful. Keep in mind, you can only use this site if you live in certain states and your adjusted gross income is $66,000 or less.

The front page also lets you know you can file your state return with 1040NOW.NET, even if you've already filed your federal taxes elsewhere.

The site itself is so old and clunky, though, that I found it a difficult to maneuver, at least compared with some of the other sites I've reviewed.

I tried 11 websites that let you file your taxes online for free - and there's something for everybody

 

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