If you earn less than $60,000 a year you are should be able to file your taxes free. But caution: many people who think they are free filing end up getting charged in the end.
To file your taxes free of charge, go to the IRS web site and click on the Free File section. You will see more than a dozen tax preparers, from H&R Block to Jackson Hewitt and other companies, offering free filing in 2015.
But one problem is many people don't do that. They file through TurboTax.com, H&R Block.com even low-cost provider TaxAct.com, and they end up getting hit with processing fees, state filing fees, or other charges.
It's a simple mistake to make, but it can cost you $40 or more. You need to enter through the IRS portal to be sure you have the free service.
There are other catches as well.
- You may still have to pay as much as $30 to file your state return with some programs, even through the IRS free file system. Solution? Try filing your state taxes directly through the state's tax website. In many cases, that is easy....and free.
- A second catch: lower income limits that can trigger fees. If you choose TurboTax -- the #1 program -- the income limit for 2015 is not $60,000 but rather just $31,000 for most people. So, before you begin the process, look at the income limits, which are listed on the IRS Free File page.
- A third catch: Age limits. Free filing from H&R Block requires you to be age 53 or younger. At Jackson Hewitt you must be 49 or younger. If you are in your 50s, even if you look as young as Madonna, you may say, "Doesn't That Stink?"
The good newis that there are enough options that you should be able to find another service that will take you, no matter your age.
Bottom line: Watch for traps when free filing.
And remember to enter through the IRS's free filing portal at http://www.irs.gov so you Don't Waste Your Money.