Free tax preparation software??
December 29, 2006 1:03 PM   Subscribe

1. Is there free tax preparation software? 2. If not why? when so many people have to file taxes every year.
posted by antisocialiting to Work & Money (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: There's a lot of free tax software that make money by charging for e-filing.

The reason that there isn't any open source tax software is because tracking changes to the tax laws of federal, state, county and city governments is a tough gig.
posted by cmonkey at 1:39 PM on December 29, 2006

Free File Home at IRS.GOV - Your Link to Free Online Filing

The IRS subcontracts this out. Basically the way it works is you answer a bunch of questions on line, give some anonymous company access to all your most personal identity and financial data including bank account numbers, and they debit your account or credit card, make up a return, and file it for you.

What they get out of it: "Instead of your $800 tax return, wouldn't you like $1000 - in VALUABLE COUPONS you can use at Applebee's!" And that kind of thing. Since your return goes to them before it comes to you, they will try to sell you all this stuff rather than give it back to you.
posted by ikkyu2 at 1:54 PM on December 29, 2006

I can't vouch for the USA, but in Canada some of the online services only charge you if you're getting a refund, with the hope for return business.
posted by furtive at 2:26 PM on December 29, 2006

Best answer: I don't recall which online software I used last year, but it was (or was something like) TurboTax. It allowed me to input all my numbers and calculated my return up to the point of e-filing it for me before it stopped and requested payment.

I viewed the appropriate forms, compared them to my paper forms which I had picked up at the library (which in my case I had already done by hand, but I enjoy doing could simply fill out the forms by hand as you go along), verified they were correct with the online software, and mailed in my tax return.
posted by iurodivii at 2:30 PM on December 29, 2006

This "basic" version of H&R Block's Tax Cut is supposed to be free. I haven't tried it.
posted by exogenous at 3:16 PM on December 29, 2006

I think the IRS used to have a site that did free tax preparation, but Intuit and some other tax preparation companies sued them to stop, saying it's unfair competition.

Which is great, I'm really happy that companies are suing the government to prevent it from efficiently providing services to its citizen overlords. I'm guessing the tax preparation software cabal's next target is the 1040-EZ? Intuit already killed off a program to send pre-filled tax forms to people likely to file simple returns.

So the short answer to your second question is "Intuit."
posted by revgeorge at 3:23 PM on December 29, 2006

I did my taxes last year with H&R block or turbo tax online. I don't remember which. What they planned to do was take a portion right out of my return, which was going to be like $1,500. Once I got done filling out all my information, which took about an hour (it got very detailed, but I found out about refund options I had no idea I could take) and when I was done it told me there was a problem and they couldn't automatically deduct from my refund, so I had to pay with a credit card.

Also, the IRS supposedly has some sort of deal worked out whereby people earning less then a certain amount can use E-file programs for free.
posted by delmoi at 3:33 PM on December 29, 2006

If you make below a certain income and have relatively simple return to file, you can get it done for free through the nationwide VITA program.
posted by megancita at 3:33 PM on December 29, 2006

ikkyu2 gave the right answer. If you meet the income requirements, you can file for free, electronically, with several of the companies. (I wouldn't have spun it so negative though, since even when you pay for it they try to merchandise all sorts of crap to you. They just suck in general.)

Also, a lot of people can use the 1040-EZ, which is really not that tricky to do on paper.
posted by smackfu at 3:52 PM on December 29, 2006

Forgot to mention that the "secret" that the tax software companies don't want you to know is that several states do have free online tax software. For instance, Connecticut.
posted by smackfu at 3:54 PM on December 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

So the short answer to your second question is "Intuit."

Not exactly.

The difference is whether the gov (in this case California) should do the taxes for free rather than private business. Either way the citizen gets it for no cost.

At the Federal level this (free tax filings) has happened for the last few years.
posted by sideshow at 4:03 PM on December 29, 2006

Or if you're in Australia where it's all a lot saner, the Aus Tax Office gives away the software and would prefer you used it rather than sending in paper.
posted by Ultimate Sockpuppet the Second at 6:04 PM on December 29, 2006

Suppossedly FREE option if your adjusted gross income is under $52,000:,,id=118986,00.html
posted by umlaut at 7:07 PM on December 29, 2006

We've used the $12.95 version of TaxAct for the past ten years but they also have free versions (including free e-file).
posted by davcoo at 9:03 AM on December 30, 2006

If you have a State Farm Bank account, they let you use the online version of TurboTax (including e-file) for free.
posted by kindall at 10:39 AM on December 30, 2006

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