is turbotax really free

Is TurboTax FREE? (Not Really!) How “Free” Works • 2020

turbotax logo small

TurboTax is the number one best-selling tax software in America, and you’ve no doubt seen their advertising for “Absolute Zero” or “Free TurboTax” just about everywhere during tax season.

The ads infer that you can file your taxes for free, assuring you that you’ll pay, “zip, zilch, and nada.” However, at the end of the day is TurboTax really free?

Unfortunately, it seems that many taxpayers don’t qualify for the TurboTax Free Edition, and end up having to pay to upgrade to a premium edition (get a coupon!).

Others expecting free state e-file are surprised to learn that they missed the March “TurboTax free state” deadline.

To better answer whether TurboTax will be free for you, let’s answer the following questions:

Free Edition: Who Qualifies? | Features | TurboTax Free State | Free Apps

Do You Qualify for the TurboTax Free Edition?

View TurboTax Free Edition

‘Cause I’m as free as a bird now And this bird, you can not change…” Free Bird, Lynyrd Skynyrd

So, will TurboTax really be free for YOU? While Free Bird may be a great song, rock stars are definitely among the majority of taxpayers who don’t qualify for Turbo Tax’s Free Edition. The Free version is designed specifically for simple federal tax returns: i.e., those submitting 1040EZ or 1040A tax forms.

free turbotax guys

• To qualify for TurboTax Free Edition:

  1. You have W-2 income
  2. Limited interest and dividend income on a 1099-INT or 1099-DIV
  3. You claim the standard deduction
  4. You claim Earned Income Tax Credit (EIC)
  5. You may have child tax credits
  6. Max annual income (AGI) is $33,000* or less

• You do NOT qualify if you have:

  1. Itemized deductions (Schedule A)
  2. Business or 1099-MISC income (Schedule C)
  3. Sold investments, like stocks sales (Schedule D)
  4. A Health savings account
  5. Unreported tip income
  6. A rental property or a home (Schedule E)
  7. Credits, deductions, and income reported on Schedules 1-6, including the Student Loan Interest Deduction
  8. You are self-employed

That’s not very “free!”

True. These Free Edition requirements, especially the maximum income limit, are usually not mentioned in the copious ads for “TurboTax Free / Absolute Zero” that you’ll see everywhere during tax season.

Tip: A lot of taxpayers start using the Free Edition and end up frustrated after having to upgrade to their Deluxe Edition for an unexpected expense of about $40!

“Customers with more complex tax situations will file with our other TurboTax products that provide all the right forms and guidance they need.” 


However, if you believe that you are part of the lucky minority of people who do qualify for the TurboTax Free Edition, congratulations! You can click below to get started:

turbotax free state federal

*If you don’t think that you meet the requirements to use TurboTax Free Edition, click here to see the IRS list of free file offers, and you may be able to file free elsewhere!

TurboTax Free Edition Features:

Well, TurboTax is really free for some people, so how does “Free” work? The Free online Edition of TurboTax asks you a number of simple questions about your life so that they can customize the Free Edition experience to meet your needs.

This means that you’ll get the deductions you deserve, and the maximum possible refund without having to click through irrelevant forms and questions. They also save your work as you go, so file at your own pace and don’t fret about losing all of your progress.

Here are 9 top features of the TurboTax Free Edition:

  1. Free tax filing: Free filing of Federal return
  2. Answers: 24/7 support from an online community of customers and specialists
  3. Always Evolving: TurboTax Free Edition is up to date with all of this year’s tax law changes.
  4. Find Tax Credits: Do you have dependents? The Free Edition shows you who qualifies as a dependent, plus find tax credits like the Child & Dependent Care Credit, Earned Income Credit, and child tax credit.
  5. W2’s are a Snap: Upload a photo of your W-2 from your phone
  6. CompleteCheck™ runs a comprehensive review of your tax return before you file.
  7. Easy Import: It’s not important whether you used TurboTax to file your taxes last year. The Free Edition quickly imports previously filed taxes including PDFs of prior years’ tax returns filed through other software, like H&R Block. (if applicable)
  8. Fast State file: Once you finish your federal taxes, TurboTax transfers your info to quickly complete and file your state taxes. File state taxes free before March 15th!
  9. Fast tax refund: E-file your federal and state taxes with direct deposit to get your fastest possible refund

Lastly, you’ll sleep better knowing that your information is safe with the Free Edition, as they go to extreme lengths to safeguard all of your information during every step of the TurboTax free filing process.

Now, let’s talk about whether you can also take advantage of free state efile.

*Which Free Edition Is Better: TurboTax or H&R Block?

TurboTax Free State:

So, now that we have discussed eligibility for the TurboTax Free Edition, let’s talk about how to also file your state taxes for free.

Tip: TurboTax Free state e-file is only available early in the tax season, and the deadline to file state taxes for free is March 15th.

Although qualifying taxpayers can file their federal taxes free with TurboTax at any time, you’ll need to be punctual to file State free. If you submit your tax return after March 15th, expect to pay a $39.99 State filing fee. (per state)

So, is there a coupon for TurboTax free state e-file? Sorry, after March 15th there is no way to avoid the state filing fee, and no coupons will waive the state filing fee.

Quickbooks: How to Get a Free 30-Day Trial of Their Software

TurboTax: Who Can File Both Federal AND State for Free?

While death and taxes are unavoidable, many people do qualify for TurboTax’s Free Edition, enabling them to prepare and submit their federal and state taxes for free.

Here are 5 ways that you can file your State and Federal taxes free with TurboTax:

  1. File early: If you have simple (1040EZ) taxes, you may be eligible for “Absolute Zero” with free Federal and State e-file early in the tax season. The deadline to file your federal and state taxes for free is March 15th
  2. Military: Service members with ranks of E-1 to E-5 can file their State and Federal taxes for free with the Free or Deluxe Edition. Learn more
  3. Low Income: Individuals or families with an adjusted gross income (AGI) of less than $33k per year may qualify for the TurboTax Freedom Edition, which includes free State & Federal e-file
  4. Students: Students who qualify may also be able to file their federal and state taxes for free.
  5. Group / Client Discount: It’s possible to get a premium edition of TurboTax for free through certain groups or financial institutions like Bank of America or Chase who may offer free TurboTax Editions to their clients.

*Which Free Tax Refund Calculator is the Best?

Who Should NOT Use TurboTax’s Free Edition?

As mentioned, their free version is only best for people with simple 1040EZ tax returns who meet the qualifications listed above. Otherwise, it’s a good idea to choose one of their premium editions, as the extra features, guidance, and potential for extra deductions are a good investment.

Even if you qualify for the Free Edition, you should still consider the following:

  • The average tax refund in 2017 was over $2700
  • A single missed tax deduction could cost you hundreds of dollars
  • Their Deluxe version only costs $50+, or less with a service code

Now, if you have simple taxes and happily file with 1040EZ, these facts may be irrelevant. However, if your tax situation is a bit more complicated or has deductions, you might decide that it’s worth the money to pay for good software to file your taxes.

By saving $50 or so with the Free Edition you may be missing out on hundreds of dollars (or more) in deductions. If you are forced to upgrade or believe a premium edition of TurboTax is a better option you can still get a great discount.

*Related: Are Vistaprint Business Cards Really Free?

TurboTax Free Apps

free apps from turbotax

Sorry, we’re not talking about the free apps you get at a company dinner or wedding reception. (Mmm… bacon wrapped-something!) We’re referring to the free apps that TurboTax has available at the App Store including:

  • TaxCaster: Estimate your tax refund for free!
  • ItsDeductible: Free app that keeps track of your charitable donations all year so that you don’t miss a deduction

Learn more: Free download!

Conclusion: TurboTax Not Free? At Least Get the Best Price!

free lunch tomorrow
Free lunch! (Tomorrow)

If your taxes are not simple, you’ll probably have to pay for a version like Deluxe, Premier, or Home & Business.

If you do have to pay, (like most of us) at least you can get the best price by using a coupon, including our exclusive discount for up to 20% off.

Hey, maybe it’s not “free,” but it’s something. Besides, maybe you don’t qualify for the Free Edition because your income is too high or you own a house. Those are good problems to have!

They say that there’s no such thing as a free lunch and that death and taxes are unavoidable. Ironically that’s the case for most taxpayers who start to file their taxes with TurboTax Absolute Zero, as it’s usually not free.

Consider that TurboTax Free Edition only ends up being “free” for a minority of taxpayers who meet the eligibility requirements. Also, you’ll have to file before the March 15th deadline to file your state taxes for free.

That means that out of the millions of people who file their taxes each year with TurboTax, only a relatively small percentage of customers will complete their federal and state returns by paying, “zip, zilch, or nada!”

To see if the Free Edition will work for you, click below:

turbotax free file
*Do you qualify for, “free?”

Thanks for stopping by Mighty Taxes!

About kevin

Hi, I'm Kevin McCormick. I graduated from Rutgers U., and now live in Philadelphia with my wife, three kids, and a dog. I enjoy blogging in my free time, especially about finance and the history of taxation. Thanks for stopping by Mighty Taxes!