Tax Season: Online Tax Preparation Site Charges Individual Eligible For Free eFile

If your Adjusted Gross Income was less than $52,000 last year, you are eligible to file your taxes for free. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Reader F writes in to share his experience with online tax preparer

Last year I filed through, a participating company, and everything worked fine. This year, I went straight to to file again. I entered all my information (taking probably 1 to 2 hours total) and then at the end, after entering everything, I was told I’d be charged $32.75 for my federal taxes and $32.75 for my state taxes. After traveling around the website for a while I finally found a page that said that to use the freefile service, I had to land on their website by clicking a link on the IRS freefile site.

The IRS maintains a list of tax preparation sites offering free eFile to those who qualify. Eligibility varies from site to site, but most, despite being on the list, will try to charge for submitting electronically. tells Reader F “we must charge,” inside…

Reader F’s full email exchange:


Last year I used your service to file free and it worked fine. This year, after filling out my entire return, I got to the final submit return screen and got a message that I had to pay to file both my Federal and State returns.

After searching your site at length I finally saw that I needed to arrive at your page from the IRS page, so I tried doing that, but still, I’m being charged the fee. I’m also not clear why I should be charged for the state filing at all.

Let me know what I can do to have my tax forms submitted without paying $60+. Thank you very much for your help! Your system is very clear and easy to use.

It is mandatory to be referred to us electronically from the Free File page of the IRS website to initiate the return process, via the Internet to qualify for the free offer.

The system automatically flags such referral.

Please use the following link to find answers to your question(s) regarding the free file option and are qualification criteria.

This is also available to you on our home page via the “Free Services” link.

Thank You for Choosing

The Taxman

Right. I understand.

But at this point, I’m not sure what to do. Do I need to delete everything I’ve entered for 2006 and re-enter the site from the IRS site. What value can that possibly have at this point?

Unfortunetly the system will try to charge you regardless.

Thank You for Choosing

The Taxman

I understand the problem, but…

SO are you saying I should delete all my data and re-enter it after being referred by the IRS? Or if I do that, the system will still try to charge me? How can I get around that at this point? Surely you can manually override this function of the system – as in the case when you must issue a credit for any user.

Is this something I should contact the IRS about directly – letting them know that due to your system, I cannot file free even though I am eligible to?

I’m sorry, I’m just really confused.

There is no way to reverse the process.

Thank You for Choosing

The Taxman

So you’re saying that now I cannot file with you unless I pay over 60 dollars to do so? Frankly, I do not believe that the process is not reversible. Your company is perfectly capable of either choosing not to charge me, or of simply charging me and then issuing me a credit in the amount that I pay.

As part of our agreement with the irs if you do not follow the link we must charge.

Thank You for Choosing

The Taxman

The situation is unfortunate, but unsurprising. If you are going to file electronically for free, be prepared to start from scratch each year.

Last year, we visited various preparation firms through the IRS website, but could not get anyone to file our taxes for free. Each firm would let us preview the tax forms and would offer to submit them, for a price. Exasperated and wanting to be done with our civic duty, our solution was to copy the data from the preview forms by hand onto the real forms, which we mailed. The IRS took our money without complaint. — CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER
IRS Free File