Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Free e-file with no strings attached.

I have always felt that the ability to electronically file your taxes for free should be a right as a citizen of the United States. If the government makes you pay taxes, you shouldn't have to pay someone an additional fee to figure out how much you need to pay. It looks like the Free File program has finally achieved something close to how I think things should be.

For years there have been ways to e-file taxes (both federal and state) for free, but there have been stipulations that limit access to these options, such as caps on income. For the past couple of years I have semi-manually filled out my tax returns because I refuse to pay to have my taxes done. Thankfully, the IRS had PDF forms that you could fill in, though you had to perform the calculations yourself. Missouri went a step further and provided PDF forms that automatically performed the calculations. The drawback was that I had to print out my tax returns and mail them in.

It now looks like the IRS is offering Free File Fillable Forms that perform calculations and allow e-file! It is completely free for the federal return and there are no limitations, including on income. I should note that this option is similar to filling in the paper forms, except that it is all done electronically. People who are not comfortable with crunching the numbers or deciding which schedules to fill out are probably better off with the commercial software packages/websites that guide you through the process, though usually at a cost. In any case, you can bet that I will be utilizing this service this year. Unfortunately, this does not apply to state returns, so I would have to either pay for a Missouri e-file (head shake) or mail in the state forms as I have done in the past (head nod).

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