How to file your tax return online for free

How to file your tax return online for free

As Tax Day approaches, 2024 brings new ways to file online for free, get more help and claim refunds
/ 06:45 AM March 26, 2024

Tax return

By the time tax season closes on April 15 — the last day to submit a return — the IRS expects to receive 146 million returns, and planning for it is “a monumental task,” said IRS Wage and Investment Division Deputy Commissioner Kevin Morehead at a Friday, March 22 Ethnic Media Services briefing.

Taxpayers who live in Maine or Massachusetts have until April 17 to file.

Preparation for this season began early in 2023, and focused on implementing part of the $78 billion in funds to be used from the Inflation Reduction Act through 2031 by expanding helpline and on-site help center hours, reducing call wait times to three minutes or less and adding customer callback — “though we’re not offering a lot of it right now, because we’re answering calls so quickly,” continued Morehead.

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Kevin Morehead, deputy commissioner, Wage and Investment Division, IRS, discusses the advantages of filing your taxes electronically.

The IRS began accepting 2023 tax returns on Jan. 29. As of March 8, the IRS had received 62.8 million returns and processed 61.9 million, issuing nearly 43 million refunds totaling more than $135 billion.


Those filing for an extension have until Oct. 15 — “but remember that an extension to file is not an extension to pay,” he said.

Free ways to pay

For those who haven’t yet paid, “my best tip is to file electronically, and choose direct deposit if you’re getting a refund,” Morehead explained. “Why? Most taxpayers who file electronically and choose direct deposit have no need to contact the IRS, because E-filing reduces errors that can delay refunds. Making these two choices alone avoids most of the challenges people face when filing or getting a refund.”

Most people have several ways to E-file for free — and, for some as of this month, even directly.


On March 12, the IRS launched a full-scale Direct File pilot program for eligible taxpayers in 12 states to file their returns for free, directly through the IRS. These states are Arizona, California, Florida, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Wyoming.

Direct File also has a live chat feature for tax help in English and Spanish.

Kevin Morehead, deputy commissioner, Wage and Investment Division, IRS, shares details on IRS tax assistance centers, which offer help with filing tax returns.

Eligible taxpayers must “report income from jobs that generate from a W-2, and can claim a standard deduction — and any deductions for educator expenses and student loan interest,” said Morehead. “They also may be claiming an earned income tax credit, child tax credit or credit for other dependents.”

Direct filers typically get a refund in less than 21 days if they choose direct deposit. After submitting a federal return through Direct File, taxpayers in states with a state income tax — Arizona, California, Massachusetts and New York — will also be directed to the direct E-file page for their state return.

Those who don’t use Direct File have other free options.

Taxpayers who made $79,000 or less in 2023 can also E-file through Free File Alliance, a group of commercial tax companies in partnership with the IRS. This year, the service is available through one partner,, in Spanish.

Getting help

Those who need help filing taxes also have a range of options.

For instance, those making a low-to-moderate adjusted gross income — generally under $64,000 — are eligible for free tax help by IRS-certified volunteers through Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, while those 60 years or older are eligible for Tax Counseling for the Elderly.

For military and some veteran households, The Department of Defense has MilTax, offering free preparation help and electronic filing software for federal income returns and up to three state income tax returns, with no income limit.

Taxpayers looking for in-person aid can go to a Taxpayer Assistance Center, many of which now have extended hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays, alongside Saturday events where people can get help from IRS employees, make payments by check or money order, get help with identity theft, authenticate their identity, ask about account adjustments and get help interpreted in multiple languages.

On the IRS website itself, help is translated into seven languages — Spanish, Vietnamese, Russian, Korean, Haitian Creole, traditional Chinese and simplified Chinese — while a resource page with more information about federal taxes is available in 21 languages.

Those seeking paid help can sort certified preparers by area and qualifications through the IRS directory.

“Once a taxpayer files their return, they may want to know when they’ll get their refund,” said Morehead. “With millions of tax returns going out each week, Where’s My Refund remains the best way to check your status. The tool is available in English and in Spanish, and provides IRS confirmation of receiving a federal tax return, approval of the tax return and refund, and an issuing date of the approved refund. Information for returns from tax years 2023, 2022 and 2021 is also available.”

Avoiding scams

“If we’re talking about refunds, we need to address scammers that try to mislead taxpayers into believing that they’re owed a refund,” he continued. One new scheme involves a mailed cardboard envelope with an enclosed letter of “notice relating to your unclaimed refund,” that includes the IRS masthead with contact information not belonging to the IRS.

Kevin Morehead, deputy commissioner, Wage and Investment Division, IRS, discusses the tax scams that target immigrants and explains how they can be spotted and avoided.

Taxpayers should also avoid “ghost preparers” who don’t sign tax returns in hopes of profiting by promising a big refund and charging fees based on its size.

Recent immigrants in particular are targeted by aggressive phone calls where scammers impersonate IRS agents with fake names and identification numbers.

“Victims are told they owe money to the IRS, and it must be paid promptly through a gift card or wire transfer under threat of arrest or deportation, or suspension of a business or driver’s license,” said Morehead. “To trick them into sharing private information, scammers may tell them they have a refund due or leave an urgent callback request.”

Those suspecting tax fraud should remember that the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text message or social media, or ask for personal or financial information through these channels like scammers do.

More information about recognizing and reporting various tax scams is available through the IRS.

“Unfortunately, tax scammers are always inventing new ways to trick people,” said Morehead. “But success for us means improving the experience that taxpayers have with us, and we’ve been successful. With these new services, we want to see that continue.” (Ethnic Media Services)

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