The 2021 Tax Filing Season Began February 12th | Learn the 7 Best Ways to File for FREE!

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2020 tax forms with pen

Tax season is coming! Check out these easy-to-use tax programs and file for FREE!

The Internal Revenue Service announced that the 2021 tax season would start on Friday, February 12, 2021. That is the date that the IRS began accepting and processing 2020 tax year returns.

The February 12th start date allows the IRS time to update its systems following the December 27 tax law changes that provided a second round of Economic Impact Payments. These updates will ensure that eligible taxpayers can receive any outstanding stimulus money as a Recovery Rebate Credit when they file their 2020 tax return. Without these updates in place, there could be a delay in issuing refunds to taxpayers.

woman working on taxes with shocked look on her face

Although last year’s tax filing deadline was extended until July 15 due to the coronavirus pandemic, there’s currently no indication that will happen again this year. So don’t wait! This year, the IRS is urging taxpayers to file electronically with direct deposit as soon as they have the information they need.

Below, we’re sharing a list of FREE electronic tax filing programs that are quick and easy to use, so you can check income tax filing off your to-do list in the most painless way possible!

Hip Tip: Although the IRS typically issues more than 90% of federal tax refunds within 21 days of accepting them, sometimes it can take longer than that to receive your money.

Learn how to check the status of your 2020 income tax return here!

computer monitor showing Turbo Tax screen

1. With TurboTax, both your state and federal tax returns are FREE!

TurboTax is easy to use from the comfort of your home. They will help you find every deduction and credit you qualify for, and their comprehensive review before filing helps to ensure nothing gets missed!

TurboTax is now allowing taxpayers to file federal and state tax returns completely FREE with TurboTax Free Edition. For those who need to upgrade to more advanced tax preparation software, check out their Deluxe, Premier, and Self-Employed online filing programs!

Hip Tip: When you file your 2020 tax return with TurboTax by April 15, you can earn 1,000 Rapid Rewards Southwest Points!

H&R Block sign on building

2. File for FREE with H&R Block – even with select deductions.

Head over to H&R Block where you can file your taxes online for FREE! Their free online tax filing includes deductions for student tuition, payments, and loan interest.

3. Enjoy advanced features at no extra cost with FreeTax USA.

Consider using to e-file your Federal return directly with the IRS, and you can choose from their Simple, Basic, or Advanced filing programs – all for free! Add a state return for just $12.95.

Hip Tip: This site has been highly recommended by our Hip2Save readers for its easy-to-use platform and no-nonsense pricing!

irs forms on desk with laptop and calculator

4. Surprise filing fees? Not with Credit Karma Tax.

Filing with Credit Karma Tax is as FREE as it gets! Head on over to Credit Karma’s site to get started with your free federal AND state return. And if you filed with another tax prep software last year, you can take advantage of their Jumpstart service to import last year’s return from H&R Block, TurboTax, or TaxAct.

Hip Tip: Don’t fear an audit! You’re covered by Credit Karma’s 100% free Audit Defense as they guarantee 100% accuracy with their calculations.

5. eSmart Tax features simple and FREE filing.

File your federal income tax return through e-Smart Tax by Liberty Tax completely FREE. E-Smart Tax technology ensures you get your highest possible refund and they offer a simple step-by-step Q&A preparation, along with support available via chat, email, social media, and in-person at 2,500+ offices (though you’ll want to call ahead for the safety guidelines when visiting in-person).

Tax forms shown in front of laptop

6. Get a maximum refund guarantee with TaxAct.

Head over to TaxACT to sign up for a FREE federal and FREE state edition of their software. Then, you’ll be able to prepare, print, and electronically file your tax return for free!

7. File your federal & state taxes FREE with Tax Slayer.

File your federal and state return for FREE when you use the TaxSlayer Simply Free plan. You can also get low pricing on their advanced filing software.

calculator, pen and tax documents

More Hip tips for finding free and easy Tax-Filing programs:

  • If your income is $72,000 or less, you can head directly to and file your federal taxes for free!
  • Check the daily deal sites. Groupon has offered up significantly reduced vouchers for online tax preparation products in the past, and they will likely have similar offers throughout the 2021 tax season.
  • Ask your local college or university. One reader reported that the accounting students at her local college will complete tax returns for free. They’re then reviewed by the professor to ensure accuracy.
  • The AARP Foundation Tax-Aide offers free help for older taxpayers and people with limited incomes. Find an AARP Foundation Tax-Aide site in your community by visiting the AARP website.
  • If you’re in the military, check out Military One Source for more information about different tax filing resources available.
  • Check for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) or Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) sites near you. Those who generally make less than $57,000 per year, persons with disabilities, limited English speaking taxpayers, and the elderly may qualify for assistance through the VITA and TCE Programs. IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals. Find a VITA Volunteer site in your community by visiting the IRS tax prep website.

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Jenna has a Bachelor's Degree from Lycoming College and her Master's from Penn State, holding 3 years of writing experience between a variety of publications and Hip2Save.

Join The Discussion

Comments 38

  1. Jessie

    It is that dreaded time of year, again…lol. I really appreciate your site for providing helping information that we can use in the long run. 😀 This has been Godsend and such a permanent solution for me…Before I was using TurboTax (free edition), but always would get charged every year. 🤔 Then I saw the article last year and filed with Credit Karma and it was free! Not only that, I received my return much sooner.

    • Collin (Mrs. Hip)

      SO glad this has been helpful, Jessie! Thanks for the feedback!

  2. Branda

    Thank you for this information. Since using Turbo Tax, unfortunately they screwed up my last $600 stimulus payment by sending it to a closed bank account and unfortunately, in addition to the IRS, there is no way, that I know of, to update this information. So that money is in the wind…and Biden is trying to push for another $1400 stimulus payment…so that one will probably get lost too…but hopefully I can try one of the other free services listed and get a much better outcome. I had given up hope thinking I would have to pay additional tax preparation fees out of the little money I would be getting back, but there is hope yet!

    • dylanfan

      H&R Block also had issues sending to wrong bank accounts, but they fixed it within a few days. Go on Twitter and buy turbo tax to fix your issue and you should get it resolved.

    • KellZoll

      You may get lucky and get the debit card rather than a direct deposit. That’s what my son got this time even though he got direct deposit for the last one.
      Can you chat with Turbo Tax Online to get help?
      With the qualifier I am not an accountant so can’t give expert advice, you could also try the IRS website and see if there is somewhere to update your banking information. Make sure you’re at the right site (irs dot gov) to avoid a fraudulent site. Or make a $20 (or more) payment to the IRS online and use your current bank’s information to do it so it’s in the system?

  3. Tina9222

    Ughh! Haven’t even received my 2019 refund from March I e-filed .Finally after months “no lie” of calling,i connected this morning with IRS, to be told its been received but hasn’t been processed still… cannot get any more information…

    • MammaK

      Was just at my Tax appointment we have to fill by March 1st and my accountant told me they have just finished opening all the mail from last march when the government shut down. So if you mailed in your taxes they are probably still working on them. Might also be way some have not received there stimulus money?

  4. Leslie

    If you are lower income, consider filing with AARP at your local library. I am a volunteer there and we are doing things totally different this year because of COVID. It should be a safe way to get your taxes done.

    Keep in mind that to file free in some of the above programs, your return can not be complex and you can not ask for assistance. Otherwise the start adding fees.

    • Evie

      No thanks, Aarp cancelled a week before last years tax appointments! I had to scramble around and finally found turbo tax.
      Do not blame them for not wanting to catch covid, but they could have offered remote appointments.
      Never will use again,was happy with them.
      They will not get $s from me.

  5. MCouzens

    Anyone have personal experience with Typically I use TurboTax Deluxe. How does this compare?

    • Dee

      MCouzens….I used FreeTaxUSA for over 5 years where I only paid for my State return. I always got a 10% discount code from I had no issues using them and highly recommend them. Last year I went with Credit Karma at my sister’s recommendation because it was free for both federal and state. I think using either is a win-win! Take care!

      • A. Smith

        I’ve used FreeTaxUSA for years and never, not once thought about looking for a coupon code. Whatever was I thinking. *smacks forehead* Every penny counts around here.

    • Denise

      We have used for years and love it! So easy to use for me being tech challenged lol!

    • Melissa

      I use freetaxUSA every year and I’m satisfied. I also worked in tax prep for about 8 years, so I’m familiar with most forms.

    • Allison

      That’s what we’ve used for years. Federal is always free but my state has a charge. I was satisfied until 2019 when nobody let me know that our state taxes were never received and I lost out on a state stimulus check AND had to pay a larger amount because of penalties. 🤨

  6. lori1989

    Thank you so much for posting about these options! I usually go with an accountant each year but that’s very expensive (especially for mine which are very simple and definitely should be straightforward enough for me to easily do), so now I have no excuse not to do it myself — for free! 😊

    • Jennifer (Hip Sidekick)

      You are welcome! I’m so glad you found this helpful.

  7. Luv2save2

    I’ve done mine for free on H&R Block online for years but it got a bit complicated this year because I sold a house out of state. Anyway I went into the office and was able to apply a $25 off code from Retailmenot so it wasn’t too bad!

  8. KellZoll

    I’ve used Turbo Tax for my teens’ returns. Free and it works great.
    Ours are a bit more complicated so we have to use an accountant.
    If you have to file 1099 forms (for if you hire independent contractors/nanny/etc. over $600), I have used Yearli dot com for years. You don’t need to go to Office Depot and buy 50 paper forms when you only need 2. I think the cost is under $10 for them to file both the 1099 and the 1096 forms. So much cheaper than having your accountant do it for you!

  9. Holly

    Thanks for info! I’ll try Credit Karma since HR Block is no longer “free” for me this year due to investments. FYI, if anyone is using Turbo Tax or Tax Act, I had offers for both on my Chase Business card. So check your Chase card offers first if you’re using that to pay: 10% back on Turbo, $7 back on Tax Act.

    • Jennifer (Hip Sidekick)

      Thanks so much for the tip about the Chase card, Holly!

    • Sallys

      thank you for this comment. I spent 3 hours figuring out my taxes and turbo tax bumped me to “Premier”. I am procrastinating the final processing due to cost, hoping for a discount. I never even thought of checking for offers at chase.

  10. Sallys

    And I checked Raukuten and found there is also cash back for Turbotax Premier. Combining the Raukuten and Chase cash back offers widdles the overall end out of pocket fee down quite a bit! That is a great way to start a new week! Thank you.

    • Jennifer (Hip Sidekick)

      You are welcome!

  11. Evie

    I like turbo tax, if you notify them when you change your bank account, you would not have a problem. Insurance always seems to know when you change your bank account.
    I pay the last minute, if I owe.

  12. Sarah

    I find the TurboTax software is the easiest to understand, and TurboTax can import some forms I need directly from some institutions. So, I fill-out my taxes on TurboTax for free (I don’t take the step to pay and file), and then I do them again on CreditKarma and file for free through Credit Karma. That way, I can double-check my work/refund amount. Just a tip for those Type As who don’t totally understand taxes.

  13. Patricia Lavenz

    #8 Get a free CPA on Freecycle. That is how I got mine. LOL With my brothers and grandkids and the house not sure if I would know how to do it. And then working from home for a year etc….

  14. Mary

    Go on your states tax revenue website and most states have a list of free file tax sites with links to them. Usually you do have to make under a certain AGI though, with most under $65000 I think.HR block is not on our state SC website as free any longer. You can file for free but with limited help, you have to fill in all of the information it does not automatically fill in information, even if you have used them previously and they do not store a copy of your taxes for you with the free file.
    Since it said free my daughter started hers; because we have used HR block the last 4 years and they kept the information on file, but this year it stated out as free and half way through would not let her continue without paying. It said $29.99 so my daughter was going to just pay that but it added an additional fee to do the state return when she did this, which would have made the cost over the amount of the credit she was receiving for the non-free form. It would not let her just remove the credit that she would have received either. It changed from free because she qualified for a savers credit for her 401k, which is not free to file.
    She just started over on Turbo Tax which was completely free, easier and faster to use.
    Just so no one is surprised if they start HR block and then it comes up a fee half way through.

  15. Tina9222

    Hi everyone! Credit karma has been my go to for the last 7 years or so, I have a small business and this would usually guide you step by step, the IRS is also has a free program. I think due to so many different changes the forms changed and everything had to be input all over. They also offer defense against audits for a year, they also keep records for you. I can go back to 2017 if I need any information. Keep in mind there will be no one to talk to if you have questions, BUT you can chat and they are very pleasant. The people who DIDNT get a stimulus check MYSELF included, can mark the X on the tax form when you start the application. The IRS will know if you didn’t cash it and should add it to you refund or if you owe, it will reduce the taxes. ALL THIS HAPPENED TO US!!! So I’m pleased with Credit Karma. By the way it’s nobody’s fault but Coronavirus that the 2019 refunds are still being processed, as ours are too. Good luck to everyone!

  16. Becky M

    I’ve used Credit Karma the last couple of years and am quite pleased. I used to use H&R Block and purchase the software and email federal, but there was an additional fee to rifle State. Federal & State are both free to exile with Credit Karma. Plus, I had no issues getting the stimulus money direct deposited with Credit Karma. And the stimulus checks came quite early for me.

    • Becky M

      E-file. Auto-correct. Ugh!

  17. Sue

    I used FREETAXUSA.COM and just got my refund direct deposit on Saturday.
    That was fast.

    I have been using them for the last 2 years.

  18. EmilyMab

    I’ve used turbo tax free edition for 5 years now and it’s very easy, as long as you have a simple return. This year I was eligible for an education credit, but it would require a different form so I had to upgrade to premium, it only cost $40 and got me an extra 1,000 back in my refund. Oh, and I had multiple forms, from unemployment, a w-2 from work, a tax form from my school and social security income and it was still a breeze to do. Also like someone else mentioned if you make under $60,000 you can get them prepared for free there are links on the irs website.

  19. everybodyluvsmonkeys

    This is all very helpful information. Thank you! I think I may try Credit Karma this year. We used have 1099s and always had an accountant do our taxes but we both get W2s for the past 3yrs. I was just scared to do it myself.

    • Collin (Mrs. Hip)

      You’re SO welcome! Glad this was helpful!

  20. Eb

    Has anyone used these to file with an irrevocable trust? Tried last year but had problems.

  21. Pat Rosburg

    I have a friend who has many stock market trades and is having trouble finding software this year. Any recommendation oh and her income is under 75000

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