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File Free Taxes: IRS Free File, FreeTaxUSA and 6 More Options

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This story is part of Taxes 2022, CNET’s coverage of the best tax software and everything else you need to get your return filed quickly, accurately and on-time.

Time is running out — the April 18 tax deadline is less than three weeks away. The IRS has already issued almost 52 million refunds averaging some $3,300 each. If you’re expecting a refund this year, don’t wait to file your taxes for free.

While income taxes can be tedious, they don’t have to be expensive to prepare. Low-income taxpayers have multiple choices for free filing, and now almost every American can find quality free services that let them complete and submit federal tax returns at no cost. 

Be warned that some tax software may lure you in with free offers and then try to upsell you higher tiers of service. Before selecting any “free” tax-prep service and starting your tax return, make sure your tax situation won’t require you to upgrade to a paid product.

Cash App Taxes — CNET’s pick for best free tax software in 2022 — doesn’t include any paid upgrades and is applicable for a large majority of US taxpayers, but it’s not the only option. Read on to learn about the best ways to file your taxes for free, including official services from the IRS and top-notch free software from commercial publishers. 

For more, learn about this year’s biggest tax changes, get important tips for doing your taxes by phone and discover the best tax software for 2022

IRS Free File and Free File Fillable Forms

The IRS partners with tax companies to provide its Free File Program, which offers free tax software to Americans whose adjusted gross income (AGI) is $73,000 or less. If you meet the AGI requirement, you can select one of eight commercial software programs (including TaxAct and TaxSlayer, which are on our list of best tax software for 2022) to guide you through filing a federal tax return. 

The catch? Not all state returns are free. Each offer specifically lists which states are included in its Free File product; be sure to carefully review each product’s state list before choosing.

If your AGI is greater than $73,000, you can file for free with the IRS using its Free File Fillable Forms, but they don’t include free state return options and there’s no guided assistance. You’ll need to manually check the math, and you can’t make changes once your return is accepted.

gettyimages-73855284

Many Americans can file their taxes for free or get tax help at no cost.


Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance or Tax Counseling for the Elderly

The IRS also offers free tax-preparation services for those most in need: The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program helps filers who make less than $57,000, those with disabilities or those who speak limited English. The volunteers are IRS-certified and supply basic income tax return prep.

Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) assists those who are 60 and older with specific advice on retirement-related concerns. Even those who are still working but nearing retirement might benefit from TCE services.

To find a VITA or TCE site near you, use the VITA/TCE Locator Tool or call 800-906-9887.

Debuting for the first time in 2022, Cash App Taxes (formerly Credit Karma Tax) allows you to file for free — even if you’re self-employed — and we consider it the best free tax product available right now.

Cash App doesn’t offer as much support as some professional software and doesn’t include the ability to upload 1099 income forms, but if you don’t need much hand-holding or have a simple return, it’s a great option for filing a tax return for free.

Read our full review of Cash App Taxes 2022.

Founded in 2001 as an original member of the Free File Alliance, FreeTaxUSA provides a strong option for filing your federal income taxes at no cost. The tax preparation software gives you one free federal return that includes all the IRS forms and schedules that most tax filers need. You’ll need to pay $15 to file your state return, however.

A well-organized and efficient question-and-answer process will guide you through the process of completing your tax return. It doesn’t include the polished interface and support features of top tax software like TurboTax or H&R Block, but FreeTaxUSA does a good job of providing contextual help and answers to common tax questions. It should work well for anyone looking to file taxes on the cheap. 

Longtime in-person tax preparer H&R Block also offers a way to file your taxes for free online. H&R Block’s Free Online product includes a federal tax return and one state return, all for no cost. However, it leaves out gig workers and freelancers as there’s no support for 1099-NEC or 1099-MISC forms.

H&R Block Free Online does let you easily import tax documents from last year and includes a robust help center and online technical support. It offers access to a few tax deductions and credits, including the earned income tax credit, child tax credit and educational expenses. 

However, if you want to report income from stock sales, deduct business or child care expenses or claim deductions like mortgage interest, you’ll need another tax solution. The full list of IRS forms supported by Free Online can be found in this PDF list from H&R Block.

Read our full review of H&R Block 2022. 

Internal Revenue Service Building sign in Washington, DC

Numerous tax-prep companies offer free filing services, but be sure you actually qualify before inputting all your information.


Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

File your federal and state taxes for free with TaxAct Free. You can import your filings from TurboTax, H&R Block or import last year’s TaxAct return at no extra charge. 

After you file a federal return, your details are autocompleted in your state return and, as with H&R Block, you’ll be able to see your estimated refund in real-time. However, TaxAct does not include a free state tax return; that will cost you $40.

Read the list of state and federal forms TaxAct offers for free (click on “forms”) before deciding if TaxAct Free will work for you.

Like with most commercial software, you’ll need a simple return to qualify for free tax filing with TaxSlayer. Its Simply Free tier lets you prepare, file and print your federal return — and get one free state return at no extra cost. 

TaxSlayer has live chat, email and phone support for when you need extra help. Unfortunately, TaxSlayer Simply Free has some strict limitations: You can’t claim the child tax credit or earned income tax credit, nor can your adjusted gross income (AGI) be greater than $100,000. Peruse the full list of requirements for TaxSlayer Simply Free to help guide your decision.

Read our full review of TaxSlayer 2022.

FAQs

How do I use free tax software?

Free tax preparation software allows you to complete all of the necessary forms for your tax return and file them with the IRS. Simple, guided interviews let users answer questions that populate electronic IRS forms for completing their income tax returns. 

These free tax programs include reviews of your tax return and options to receive your tax refund via direct deposit or check in the mail

Free tax software users should be wary of paid upgrades. Some software publishers earn money by enticing free filers to upgrade for extra support or required IRS forms that aren’t included with free versions. If the software you’re using requires an upgrade while you’re filing, see if Cash App Taxes will work for you — it includes the vast majority of IRS forms at no cost.

What is the best free tax software?

Based on its feature set, included IRS forms, interface and support, Cash App Taxes earns CNET’s pick for best free tax software in 2022.

Cash App Taxes’ biggest strength is that it will work for almost any tax filer. Its very short list of restrictions includes foreign income, nonresident state returns, increased standard deduction (rare), and married filing singly in community property states.

Cash App Taxes doesn’t even have any paid tax preparation services, so you don’t have to worry about pitches for upgrades. If you can file your return with Cash App Taxes, it will certainly be 100% free. It works with every state that requires a tax return except for Montana.

The level of support in Cash App Taxes is not comparable to top products like TurboTax or H&R Block, but it does include live chat and contextual help content.

What features do free tax software programs offer?

Free tax software program vary in their limitations, feature sets and ability to file state tax returns for free. Some free programs restrict their users by income level. See more details on the five free commercial software included in our best free tax software collection:

Best Free Tax Software, Compared

Free Tax Software Free State Return Itemized Deductions Child Tax Credit Unemployment Income Income Requirement
Cash App Taxes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
H&R Block Free Online Yes No Yes No No
TurboTax Free Yes No Yes No No
TaxAct Free No No Yes Yes No
TaxSlayer Simply Free Yes No No No $100,000

How do free tax software products make money?

Companies that offer free tax software generally earn money in two ways:

  1. They attract free filers and then upsell them with paid service or feature upgrades
  2. They earn indirect income from free filers by collecting data, targeting users with advertisements, raising brand awareness or increasing the number of users for their products

For example, Cash App Taxes, our top pick for best free tax software, requires that users install its Cash App mobile payment-service app. Increasing the users of the Cash App service helps the company earn money in ways like retailer hardware fees, transaction fees, selling bitcoin and net interest lending.

Methodology: How we select the best free tax software

CNET reviews tax software by comparing products across a set criteria. We use the software to prepare personal tax returns, examine tax products’ terms and offers, communicate with software representatives to resolve questions about products, compare feature sets and analyze each software for its effectiveness in common tax situations.

We consider the features and functionality of the tax preparation software, the user experience, the software interface, website performance, quality of help and support, and the value based on price. We are also looking for and evaluating specific features, including file importing or photo capture of forms, number and type of available IRS forms and schedules, contextual help, desktop and phone/tablet compatibility and syncing, professional tax assistance, maximum refund and accuracy guarantees, live support and security protections.

Specifically for best free tax software, we consider the limitations and restrictions of the free services offered, unique features for each service, functionality related to low-income tax filers, in-person support and assistance, and whether or not a free state tax return is included with the free federal return.

More free tax software advice

The editorial content on this page is based solely on objective, independent assessments by our writers and is not influenced by advertising or partnerships. It has not been provided or commissioned by any third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.



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Overwatch 2 Beta Begins Tomorrow: Start Time and What to Expect

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Overwatch 2 starts its second beta on Tuesday, June 28, for PC and console players. The beta begins at 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT and runs through Monday, July 18. Sign-ups are still open for a chance to participate, and you can still get guaranteed access if you’re willing to spend some cash.  

The next beta will be our first look at Junker Queen, a new tank hero who first appeared in posters on the Junkertown map that was released in 2017. Fans have been hoping to play her ever since, and five years later, we’re finally getting the chance. The new beta also adds a new hybrid map, Paraiso. The developers have laid out their goals for the beta, which include testing server capacity and hero balance. 

Overwatch 2 is the sequel to Blizzard’s class-based shooter, featuring two teams of five players fighting over objectives. Overwatch devs announced in June that the game will be free to play and will launch in early access on Oct. 4. The first beta injected a frantic pace into the game, which was a welcome change from the slower, more grinding pacing that’s plagued Overwatch in recent years. The free-to-play PvP element will bring the game more in line with other competitive shooters, like Valorant and Apex Legends.

How to sign up for the Overwatch 2 beta

Anyone can sign up for Overwatch 2’s second beta, but it’s not technically an open beta. The game will add people gradually as it ramps up server capacity, and the first big wave of beta access will happen on July 5, according to the beta FAQ page. Even if you were in the previous beta, you’ll need to sign up again. 

Here’s how to sign up:

1. Go to the Overwatch 2 beta site.
2. In the top right corner, log in to your Blizzard Account.
3. At the bottom of the Overwatch 2 beta page, choose your platform (and region for PlayStation players).
4. Then hit Request Beta Access.

If you want guaranteed beta access on June 28, you can purchase the Watchpoint Pack ($40). In addition to beta access on day one, you’ll also get two legendary character skins, a unique player icon and enough digital currency to buy the first two battle passes.

How do I download the Overwatch 2 beta?

Blizzard hasn’t released details on downloading the second beta, but it should follow the same process as the first beta. Here’s how that worked:

1. Log in to your Battle.net account and navigate to Overwatch on the game launcher.

2. In the bottom left, click the Game Version drop-down.

3. Select Overwatch 2 Tech Beta to install.

4. When the download is complete, hit the blue Play button to start.

Junker Queen spinning her axe

Junker Queen’s ultimate ability helps her close distance and end fights quickly.


Blizzard

Junker Queen abilities

The new beta finally gives fans a chance to play as Junker Queen, a hero we’ve all been excited about and/or thirsting over since she was first teased on the Junkertown map. Here’s what we know about Junker Queen’s abilities, from the Overwatch Twitter account:

New Hybrid Map: Paraiso

The beta also adds Paraiso, a new hybrid map that explores Lucio’s home, including the DJ’s Clube Sinestesia. As with all hybrid maps, players will start by attacking or defending a control point, and if the attackers succeed, players will spend the rest of the map attacking or defending a payload. 

An underground club with light-up floor

Clube Sinestesia is where support hero Lucio found fame as a DJ.


Blizzard

For more Overwatch 2 news, check out everything we learned from the Overwatch 2 reveal event.



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Icebergify: How To Create an Iceberg of Your Most Listened to Spotify Artists

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Been on social media today? Seen those bizarre musical Icebergs floating around in your feed? You’re not alone. Screenshots like this have been doing the rounds today, particularly on Twitter. 

It’s all created via the magic of a website called Icebergify.

Using the data from your Spotify listening habits, Icebergify creates an Iceberg of your most listened to artists ranked by popularity. At the tip of the iceberg? Your favourite “mainstream” artists. Your Taylor Swifts, your Beyonces, your Drakes, etc. The further down you go, the more obscure it becomes. It looks a little like this…

If you want to see your own iceberg, you can head to the website directly. Be warned: it does require your Spotify log-in. 

The Icebergify website was developed by Akshay Raj, a freshman studying Computer & Data Science at Rice University. He says he has no plans to monetize the site or use the data collected — which is limited to your username, Spotify account ID and the top 50 tracks and artists listened to over the past few years. 

How does it work? It’s fairly simple. Icebergify takes your most listened to artists and sorts them according to popularity rankings. Streams, shares, saves, likes, and followers are all taken into account. This is why Beyonce might be at the top of your iceberg, but lesser known artists are at the bottom, beneath the ocean. Also worth noting: It seems like Icebergify is being flooded due to its surprising popularity. Head back later if it doesn’t immediately work.





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Apple’s First Mixed-Reality Headset May Sport New M2 Processor

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Apple’s first mixed-reality headset could come with the company’s flagship M2 processor, just one of the “deluge” of new products the company is expected to unveil in the next year, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman reported Sunday.

The M2, unveiled in June, features redesigned central processing units and a significant memory increase, which would provide a significant boost to the much-rumored headset over the previous M1 chip.

The much-rumored headset incorporating both virtual and augmented reality environments is expected to provide a boon to the gaming industry. Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said earlier week that the headset — expected to be announced in January 2023 — would be the most complicated product Apple has designed yet.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has been vocal about his excitement about AR. Earlier this week, he explained that the tech industry is still in the “very early innings” of this technology’s possibilities.

“I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunities we’ve seen in this space, and sort of stay tuned and you’ll see what we have to offer,” Cook told China Daily.

Other products Gurman expects to debut in the next 12 months include four iPhone 14 models, three Apple Watch variations, several Macs with M2 and M3 chips, iPads, updated AirPods Pro earbuds, a fresh HomePod, and an upgraded Apple TV. 

Apple didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Read moreApple AR, VR Headset Rumors: WWDC, Release Rumors, M1 Chip and More



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