Updated: January 29, 2014
TurboTax, rated as our overall best online tax software, offers a free edition of their tax software for you to e-file your federal taxes for free. These forms only include simple fillings like 1040EZ, 1040A, and 1040. While working through your free federal filing with TurboTax, you have the support of step-by-step instructions, access to expert help, and free live tax advice via live chat. With the TurboTax Federal Free Edition, you can start filing for free and save your progress at any time or flag an area that you want return to. If you need to upgrade to another edition because you're finding that the free tax software isn't enough for you, you can do so at any time as well. You can expect your federal tax refund to arrive in your bank account with seven days when you use e-file and direct deposit.
H&R Block's free online tax software allows you to file your federal taxes at no cost through their At Home Free Edition. This free edition is one of the best in the industry due to the number of tax forms it supports. Unlike some of the other free online tax software, H&R Block provides you with forms that go beyond the basic 1040 income tax return. You can file other IRS forms and schedules that are considered less common. H&R Block also provides free audit support and representation, which makes them the best free online tax software.
Like the other online tax software choices, TaxACT offers free tax filing software where you can prepare, print, and file your federal taxes at no cost. TaxACT even includes forms for simple and complex tax returns for different statuses and life situations. If you need any help, the TaxACT Answer Center provides free support and you can contact a tax support specialist for free via email. While this type of support isn't instant, it's still nice to have the option, unless you're truly pressed for time. TaxACT also offers phone support for a one-time fee of $7.95, but you will have access to that support for the entire year. You still have to pay a fee if you want to file your state taxes, but TaxACT charges about half as much as some of the most popular online tax software.
TaxSlayer.com lets you prep, print, and e-file your federal 1040EZ tax return for free, but doesn't offer the ability to file your taxes if you need any other forms beyond the 1040EZ. While the filing options are lacking in comparison to other products, you do get some quality support features if you file your taxes for free with TaxSlayer. You will receive free email support, but the clear standout feature for TaxSlayer's Free Tax Edition is the free phone support. Many of the other tax companies don't dedicate this type of resource to their free customers. You can always upgrade to the next edition if the free edition doesn't work for you, but know that you will only gain access to additional tax forms and no other features.
Liberty Tax's eSmart Tax offers a Basic Edition of their online tax software. You can e-file your federal taxes for free like any other free online tax software, but eSmart Tax has one additional functionality feature worth noting, which is competitor importing. You can import your last year's taxes from competitors like TurboTax, H&R Block, and TaxACT for free. On top of that, you get free technical support via live chat and free audit support from a Liberty Tax CPA. In terms of filing options, eSmart Tax only offers basic tax forms so you will have to upgrade at an additional cost if need more.
Jackson Hewitt Online
You can e-file your federal taxes for free using Jackson Hewitt's Basic free tax software, but this version doesn't quite live up the bar established by some of the best free tax software. Jackson Hewitt's Basic package only includes a very simple returns, like claiming no dependents and no deductions. While Jackson Hewitt's Basic package is lacking in filing features, you will receive full email support and unlimited live chat support throughout the process. Overall, in terms of free tax software, Jackson Hewitt is offering less than the other companies, likely because this isn't the type of customer they are targeting.