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E-file tax options: E-filing for free and Filing online for free

5 min read

5 min read

E-filing and free federal e-file are terms that you might hear around tax season, but it’s only one part of your tax preparation. To help you understand what the terms e-file and free federal e-file mean, we’ll outline the relevant concepts in this post.

What is e-filing?Free e-file for taxes.

Electronic filing, or e-filing, is the process of submitting your completed individual income tax return (which includes all of your filing information) to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) over the Internet. Compared to sending your paper return through the mail, e-file has the advantage of reducing the processing time, which can help you get your tax refund more quickly.

You can e-file on your own through a number of online services or software programs. Or a tax professional might e-file for you as part of their services. However, e-file is not available for everyone. Taxpayers with more complexity may find that e-file is not allowed for their returns. See below for filing information that may require a paper form.

Advantages of e-filing

There are a number of pros to e-filing, such as:

  • The IRS receives your return almost instantly, unlike a mailed paper return.
  • E-filed returns contain fewer errors. The IRS doesn’t need to re-enter your tax information in its system.
  • If you expect a tax refund, you’ll typically receive your refund check within three weeks. Your refund will come sooner if you direct deposit your refund into your bank account. If you file a paper return, it usually takes four to eight weeks to receive a refund check.

What is free federal e-file?

Free federal e-file means you can submit your federal tax return to the IRS without cost. This is also referred to as IRS free e-file. As mentioned above, the free e-file only covers the transmission to the IRS. This doesn’t necessarily mean the tax return preparation is free. We’ll come back to that in a moment.

H&R Block free electronic filing options

If you’re using one of H&R Block’s do-it-yourself (DIY) programs for online taxes or tax software, the number of free federal e-file transmissions will vary. For example, if you file with H&R Block Online, you can file one federal return for free. However, if you’re using one of our Tax Software options, you can e-file five federal returns for free. We should note that state e-file costs can vary depending on the option you choose.

Regardless of the DIY tax-filing option you choose, we’ll walk you through the process of completing your e-file and help you understand what to do if your e-file is rejected for any errors.

Beyond free federal e-file: What about free tax prep?

Before you can take advantage of IRS free e-file, you have to prepare your return. Several commercial brands offer free file options through online tax preparation, but eligibility for the free options can vary.

H&R Block Free Online offers several benefits, including more tax forms for free compared to TurboTax Free Edition. See how TurboTax Free Edition and H&R Block Free Online tax filing stack up.

Switch to H&R Block in 5 clicks and do your own taxes online.*

And, if you’re wondering how to do taxes at Block, you have many options.

Getting ready to e-file: What are the e-file requirements?

Electronic filing is a convenient way to submit your individual income tax return to the IRS. However, there are certain times your return may not be e-filed because it does not meet the e-file requirements. Some of the most common reasons for this are:

  • Tax returns with fiscal year tax periods
  • Returns with TIN within the range of 900-00-0000 through 999-99-9999 except certain adoption TIN and Tin
  • Returns with rare and unusual processing conditions (varies year to year)
  • You have a return in which the filing taxpayer, spouse, or any dependent, regardless of date of birth, doesn’t have a valid Social Security number (SSN).
  • You claim a dependent that somebody already claimed.
  • Your return contains IRS forms that aren’t on the accepted forms and schedules list.

What IRS forms cannot be e-filed beyond a certain number?

In certain cases, you will be prevented from e-filing due to the number of forms that you need to file. You will not be able to e-file if you have:

  • Eight Schedules C
  • 1 Schedule E
  • Two Schedules H (one per taxpayer if married filing jointly)
  • Two Schedules SE (one per taxpayer if married filing jointly)
  • 50 Forms W-2
  • Four Forms 2106 (two per taxpayer if married filing jointly)
  • Two Forms 2555 (one per taxpayer if married filing jointly)
  • Two Forms 3903
  • Two Forms 4137 (one per taxpayer if married filing jointly)
  • Four Forms 4835
  • Two Forms 4972 (one per taxpayer if married filing jointly)
  • Two Forms 5329 (one per taxpayer if married filing jointly)
  • 25 Forms 8606
  • 10 Forms 8814
  • 32 Forms 8829 (four for each Schedule C)

If you fall into any of the above situations, you’ll have to file your tax return by mail for this year.

Ready to E-file your taxes? Get help from H&R Block

We’re here to help! Whether you file taxes online or with an H&R Block tax professional, we’ll help you uncover every last credit and deduction you deserve.

Note: You can also consider IRS Free File.

*See available forms. TurboTax is a registered trademark of Intuit, Inc.

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