How To Pay Your Taxes Online For Free

Tax season is upon us. And if you, like so many of us, don't have an accountant on call, you may soon find yourself staring down the dark digital tunnel of the interwebs, desperately trying to figure out your best bet for filing your taxes. The options for doing taxes online are seemingly endless, and upon first glance, practically all of them claim to be "free." But are they really?

There is no tax-whammy quite as disheartening as getting through all those forms on a "free" website — and then getting slammed with a sneaky fee at the end. To help you avoid this all-too-common misfortune, we've done the initial research for you. We combed through the major online tax options to find the ones that are "free" versus the ones that are, you know, free.

Still confused? Read ahead, and all will become clear.

Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Like many "free" online tax services, E-File is only truly free for your federal return, for those who qualify. The state return will cost you $19 with the promo code currently on offer. Still, that's not too shabby — especially since you can supposedly complete the whole shebang in under 15 minutes.
Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
If you're under 52 years old and your Adjusted Gross Income is $63K or less, you can get your federal return for free via TaxSlayer. Your state return will cost you a not-unusual $19.99 — unless you live in Georgia, in which case, lucky you.

Plus, even if you don't meet those free-return qualifications, the TaxSlayer process will cost you $17 for your federal return and $22 for state. Worse things have happened to our wallets.
Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Possibly the best-known of online tax services, TurboTax is a go-to for good reason: It's easy. And if your taxes are relatively simple and you have no dependents, you should theoretically be able to use its Absolute Zero free filing method without a problem. However, as many have learned the hard way, depending on specifics such as your tax form type, health insurance, or student loans, TurboTax may end up leaving you with no choice but to upgrade to TurboTax Deluxe. This option is $34.99, so again, it's probably not going to leave you bankrupt — but it's not a pleasant surprise, either.

However, if you meet certain qualifications (an income of $33K or less, or active military duty, or qualifying for the Earned Income Tax Credit), you can get your federal and state returns for free via TurboTax Freedom Edition.
Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
H&R Block is very aware of how TurboTax fees can sneak up on you, and it's marketing itself as an alternative with more options that truly are 100% free.

"Taxpayers with simple returns can file their 1040EZ for free," the company explains. "Taxpayers claiming the earned income tax credit can file their 1040A for free. And now, taxpayers who itemize their deductions can also file their 1040 with Schedule A for free." (With TurboTax, that latter group is required to buy the $34 upgrade.)

If your tax situation is more complex, however (you're a freelancer or an itemizer filing a schedule C-EZ, for example), you'll likely need to go deluxe, which at H&R Block will cost $54.99 for federal and $36.99 for state. Not a cheapie.

That said, if you ask the folks at NerdWallet, H&R Block's "network of brick-and-mortar locations offers a warm, fuzzy security blanket." Sounds like a pretty pleasant way to do taxes.
Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Similar to the H&R Block options, our pals at Credit Karma have launched Credit Karma Tax, an online self-directed tax prep service that is committed to being really, truly free. That means no processing fee or set-up fee or a surprise final fee that jumps out at you like a bad horror-movie villain.

“Our mission at Credit Karma is, and always has been, to promote and empower financial progress for everyone — for free. Credit Karma Tax is no different,” Credit Karma founder and CEO Kenneth Lin said in an emailed statement.
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