BEST FREE TAX PREP
The annual ritual of filing income tax returns is often complicated, time-consuming, and costly. Enlisting a tax preparer can cost hundreds of dollars. Instead, many taxpayers can prepare and e-file a federal tax return for free and a state return for less than $30 using free online software (although prices may increase as the April 15 deadline approaches). Cheapism.com has surveyed the offerings and selected four top providers of free tax software. These companies are members of the Free File Alliance, a government program that promises free federal tax prep to people who meet certain income, age, and/or residency requirements, which vary by provider. About 100 million American taxpayers (70 percent) are eligible for the program and can access the software through the IRS Free File site. Others can avoid the restrictions by using similar free software offered on the companies' websites. These free editions still include free e-filing for federal returns, but they may have higher fees for state filing, support only simple returns, and push paid upgrades and features.