By Kaye A. Thomas
Current as of January 20, 2019
Few people will want to use the bare-bones Free Fillable Forms offering.
The IRS offers two distinct alternatives for people who want to file tax returns online free of charge. The one that gets the most publicity is Free File, which gives you a choice of vendors if you meet specified criteria. A different one known as Free Fillable Forms is offered without restrictions, other than one imposed by your common sense telling you not to use such a limited offering.
This is a bare bones offering, in which you type the necessary information directly into forms rather than responding to an artfully designed series of questions as happens when using full-fledged software. There’s no income limit on this service but it provides so little help that you may make mistakes that better software would help you avoid. State returns are not available through this service.
Hard to use
This service offers no assistance in determining what forms you need to file or what information has to be entered on those forms. You can easily overlook deductions or credits that would produce tax savings.
What’s more, there’s no assurance that numbers entered on one form will automatically carry over to another where it makes a difference, so you may have to manually transfer a total from one form to another. Then, if something changes on the first form, you have to remember to change the number you previously transferred to the second one as well. It’s a time-consuming, error-prone process.
In short, you wouldn’t want to use this service unless you’re preparing an extremely simple return. And if your return is that simple, you can probably prepare your return free of charge using quality software from one of the leading providers.