Legal.com’s Guide to State and Federal Income Taxes

There are a number of ways available for you to prepare and file your 2016 income tax return(s). We’ll start with the easiest (that you can prepare and file for free), and work our way up to cover solutions for more complex returns.

Free Tax Prep Software

The IRS Free File program provides free tax preparation software to taxpayers with income below $64,000. The official Free File Web site is FreeFile.IRS.gov

Free Tax Forms

For taxpayers whose income is above $64,000, the IRS offers Free File ‘Fillable’ Forms that are electronic versions of federal tax forms. The forms to prepare and e-file your 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ return are available online. Here is a list of the available IRS Free Fillable Tax Forms. To begin, click Start Free Fillable Forms.

Free File Fillable Forms allow anyone to fill out and file their tax forms electronically, just as they would on paper. This option does not include an “interview” process like Free File, but it does allow you to enter your tax data, perform basic math calculations, sign electronically, print your return for record keeping and e-file your tax return. Free File Fillable Forms are right for people who are comfortable preparing their own tax returns and know what forms they need and don’t need.

Earned Income Tax Credit – EITC

The Earned Income Tax Credit, EITC or EIC, is a benefit for working people with low to moderate income. EITC reduces the amount of tax you owe and may give you a refund. Many states have similar tax credits. Don’t miss out! To see if you qualify, go to the EITC Home Page for all the rules and the EITC Assistant, which can help you estimate your credit.

California FTB Tax Forms & Filing

The Franchise Tax Board continues to offer a free service for California filers under its CalFile program (previously known as ReadyReturn). To see if you qualify to file directly with the FTB, visit CalFile.

Help with Tax Laws and Audits

For additional help or assistance with complicated issues, consult a tax attorney, CPA or Enrolled Agent. You can find a tax attorney using Legal.com’s Find-a-Lawyer for advice, representation in an audit or negotiation of an offer-in-compromise. You might even have a membership in a legal services plan through work, that features tax advice as one of its benefits. If not, look into LegalShield, which offers individual plans from $19.95 per month.

How to Access all Federal, State and Provincial Tax Forms

You can download all the forms you need from your state’s official tax site, for free! For Federal forms and information, see the IRS Web site. There, you can even check on your refund status. For state and Canadian Province tax forms, search [State/Province] tax forms using Legal.com’s Legal Research tool, e.g., Alabama tax forms; Quebec tax forms. When you see the list of results, look for the official web site of the state or province, to download current forms directly from the official source.