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How to File Your Taxes Online

Save Time with Online Filing

Filing your taxes online is the norm these days. It saves time, and the vast array of tax filing software can also make the process easier for everyone. According to the IRS, filing taxes online can also speed up the time it takes to get your return.

How to file your taxes online: 3 ways

Filing your taxes online is faster and easier than paper filing. Here are some options to consider as you move through the e-filing process.

1. Do it yourself

If you feel comfortable playing the role of accountant, you can get your own forms from and prepare your own taxes. All the forms and related worksheets can be found on the IRS website, along with instructions.

Depending on how simple or complicated your tax situation is, this process might be very easy for you. Go through the steps to prepare your forms using your tax documents, such as W-2(s) (from your employer showing your income and withheld taxes) or 1099-B (for capital gains). Then file everything yourself on the IRS website. If you owe money, you can pay directly on the IRS website.

2. IRS Free File

IRS Free File gives you the option to file your taxes online for free. It’s the happy medium between doing everything yourself and using tax-preparation software. The IRS works in conjunction with online tax preparation services to help you fill out everything and file online. It’s a free program, so it won’t offer as much assistance as a tax software program.

There are two Free File options based on income level:

  • One for those with an annual income lower than $72,000.
  • One for those with an annual income above $72,000.

The first option takes you to an array of options of IRS partner sites for tax filing. This option also includes state tax filing and provides guided preparation by asking you to answer simple questions with the calculations taken care of by the online service.

In the second option, you will be filling out the forms yourself. Therefore, you need some knowledge of paper tax filing, as there is only basic guidance on calculations. In addition, state tax filing is not included.

3. Tax software programs

Tax software giants such as H&R Block and TurboTax tweak their e-filing options to improve them every year. Today’s tax software programs make e-filing your taxes a breeze, mainly because they use a question-and-answer format that walks you through the process.

While tax software companies offer paid plans with more benefits, most of the big players also offer a version that lets consumers with simple tax returns, such as those without deductions, file federal taxes — and even state taxes — for free. With H&R Block’s 2020 software, for example, a free online version is available for taxpayers reporting basic W-2 income and taking the standard deduction. However, there are versions that require you to pay if you’re a homeowner, a freelancer, or a small-business owner who has a more complex tax situation with unique considerations and deductions to consider.

Other major tax preparation software companies offering a free version for the 2021 tax filing season include TaxSlayer, TurboTax, and TaxAct. If you intend to pay for a plan, make sure you compare tax preparation providers to see what each plan includes, and how much each cost. The service tiers aren’t always the same, with some offering more assistance and robust protections, such as audit assistance.

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