Top Options for E-Filing Your Tax Return

George Chidi
by George Chidi, Contributor

Roughly one in three Americans files their own taxes online, rather than using a professional tax preparer. If you're going to file electronically, there are a few ways you can do it.

If your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) was less than $58,000 for the year, you can use Free File tax preparation software to electronically file ("e-file") your tax return. Free File is a public-private partnership between the IRS and certain tax software companies that allows qualified individuals to file their Federal return for free. You can search for Free File software on the IRS.gov website.

FREE: E-file your taxes online

Note that each Free File provider has a slightly different set of eligibility requirements in order to use their software for free. Some have age and residency requirements, while others are based on your military status (if applicable) or your eligibility for certain tax breaks.

There are many options (both paid and unpaid) when it comes to e-filing your Federal tax return. Make sure you're using an Authorized IRS e-file provider that is licensed to electronically transmit your return to the IRS. Each of the major tax preparation companies — such as H&R Block, TurboTax, TaxSlayer, etc. — has an e-filing service which will walk you through the process to a completed return. Other providers, like E-file.com, specialize in online tax filing services.

Most companies offer different levels of tax preparation, from a simple Federal return to more complicated tax returns. Depending on your particular situation, you may or may not need to pay to get your taxes e-filed. Note that some companies charge extra for filing a State tax return, even if the Federal return is free. You can look for an Authorized IRS e-file Provider on the IRS.gov website.

READ: Tips for Filing a Late Tax Return

If your annual AGI is more than $58,000, you can e-file your taxes using Free File Fillable Forms. These are basically electronic versions of the paper tax forms that can be filed directly to the IRS. However, this option does not offer fillable State tax forms for e-filing. While the Free File Fillable Forms will do the math calculation for you, you still need to understand how to prepare your own tax return.

As you can see, there is a variety of e-filing options you can choose from, depending on your tax situation and how much help you need with the tax prepartion process.