How to File Your 2021 Taxes Online for Free in 2022

ByErma F. Brown

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Person doing taxes by hand with a 1040 form.
Pra Child/

The IRS is now accepting tax returns for 2021 with a deadline of April 18, 2022. There are some big changes to the free tax-filing tools we’ve previously recommended this year, but you can still file your taxes for free.

If your adjusted gross income for 2021 was $73,000 or below, you qualify for the IRS Free File Program. This program is a partnership between the IRS and a variety of paid tax software companies. If you qualify, you can use certain tax programs for free. You can do your federal taxes, do state taxes, take advantage of all the features, and even e-file—all for $0.

Be aware: The free versions available through IRS Free File are different from the normal free versions available on each program’s website!

Note: Unfortunately, for tax year 2021, Intuit is no longer participating in the IRS Free File Program, which means that there is no IRS Free File version of TurboTax.

To take advantage of this offer, you must start by using the IRS Free File version of the software. If you meet the qualifications, you can use the software for free, and you won’t be asked to pay for any of its features. You can’t just start by using a tax program’s “normal” free version. If you do, you will be exposed to features that require payment and other upsells.

To get started, visit the official IRS Free File website. You can browse all available Free File offers or use the IRS Free File lookup tool to discover the Free File software that supports your situation. Different tax programs have different limitations, which are explained on the page.

Interested in TaxSlayer? Consider MyFreeTaxes

MyFreeTaxes is a free tax service offered by The United Way. The organization offers a free version of TaxSlayer with no limitations on the forms you use. If you start using TaxSlayer through The United Way, you’ll be allowed to use it as long as your income is $73,000 or below.

The version of TaxSlayer offered through the IRS Free File website has an income limit of $39,000 or less. The version of TaxSlayer offered through The United Way will let you file for free if you make $73,000 or below. You just need to start your return by clicking through the MyFreeTaxes website.

Note: If you made more than $73,000 in 2021, the MyFreeTaxes website will direct you to Cash App Taxes, which we cover below.

What About TurboTax Free Edition?

Intuit still offers a free version of TurboTax, but it’s only for very simple tax situations. For example, even if your 2021 income was low, you’ll have to pay to upgrade from TurboTax Free Edition if you want to deduct student loan interest.

Warning: TurboTax is still widely praised, so you may want to try it if you have a very simple situation, but bear in mind that the free version of TurboTax is designed to upsell you to paid products.

This year, Credit Karma Tax transformed into Cash App Taxes. Like Credit Karma Tax, Cash App Taxes is completely free for everyone with no upsells.

Despite the name change, this is the same app as Credit Karma Tax. if you used it in previous years and were happy with it, it should be good for you.

Why the name change? Well, Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, acquired Credit Karma but was required by the government to sell Credit Karma Tax as part of the deal. (Cash App is owned by Block, Inc., the company formerly named Square.)

Unfortunately, just like when it was named Credit Karma Tax, not everyone can use this application. For example, Cash App Taxes doesn’t let you file part-year state returns, multiple state returns, or nonresident state returns. So, if you moved from one state to another in 2021 and both require you file a state tax return, Cash App Taxes isn’t suitable for you.

Cash App Taxes is also missing other forms Form 1116 for the Foreign Tax Credit or Form 2555 for Foreign Earned Income. Here are the situations and forms that Cash App Taxes doesn’t support.

Warning: While it’s been around for a few years in a few different forms, this is still a new application and it hasn’t received as many years of development. We’ve heard reports of problems with it. If you have a complicated tax situation, you may want to double-check its work by running the numbers in a different application before you file.

Free Federal Returns Only: FreeTaxUSA

If you live in a state that doesn’t require you to file a state tax return, check out FreeTaxUSA. FreeTaxUSA offers free federal tax returns. So, if you don’t have to file a state tax return in your state, FreeTaxUSA will be completely free.

Tip: You can add a state tax return for a $15 fee per state, and there’s no additional charge on top of that to e-file. It’s a lot cheaper than TurboTax if you’re looking to pay for tax software.

FreeTaxUSA has been around longer than Credit Karma Tax and supports a variety of situations that Credit Karma Tax doesn’t offer, too. It’s a more budget-friendly alternative to pricier tools like TurboTax. TurboTax does receive rave reviews for its user-friendly interface, but we’ve also used and been happy with FreeTaxUSA.

If you want to do things the old-fashioned way, there’s one more option: The IRS offers Free Fillable Forms. Everyone can use these with no income limit.

These are just electronic copies of the IRS’s standard paper tax form. They’ll do some basic math calculations for you, but that’s it. Forget the user-friendly interview process of typical online tax-filing solutions.

Free Fillable Forms are still easier than dealing with standard paper forms, however, and you can e-file for free right from the IRS’s website when you’re done. There’s no printing or mailing required.

Note: The IRS only offers federal tax forms. You’re on your own after that. However, your state may offer its own free fillable tax forms on its website.

A few of these electronic forms have some minor limitations that affect rare tax situations. Here’s a list of available forms and limitations on the IRS’s website. If you need to do something that isn’t supported, you will have to either file on paper or use a different tax-filing program

This guide is similar to our guide for filing 2020’s taxes last year. There have been some changes, including TurboTax leaving the IRS Free File Program and Credit Karma Tax transforming into Cash App Taxes. But you can still file for free.


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