How to fill out your federal and NY taxes for free! (No, really, free!!!)

It’s that nasty time of year.  That time when Uncle Sam and Uncle Andy both knock on your door and ask you for your income taxes.  And in New York, you get whacked twice, for state and for federal.

In the past, I’ve used a friend of my ex-wife’s family, a CPA who still does taxes in longhand – you know, complete with the printed booklets and black ink pens and whatnot.  But last December, he went through a quintuple bypass on his heart.  Yowtch.  I can’t bother him for stuff like this.  He needs to get healthy.

So … I decided it was time to do for myself.  And I know there are options out there.  Buy a copy of TurboTax or go to one of those storefront tax preparers that give you a check based on an estimated return.

Nopes.  Not doing that.  This year, I actually found an online resource which, if you earned a certain amount, will do your taxes completely for free.  It’ll be so free, Deneice Williams will sing along with it.

The New York State Department of Tax has, at this link, several free online services, many of which can get your taxes prepared with a simple W2 form.  You need to have grossed less than $69,000 to take advantage of this service, and you need to be a New York resident.  And you must access these tax preparing services through the NYS Department of Tax at the link above, or else you’ll pay a fee.

Wait, this is possible?  People can actually fill out their taxes by themselves without having to scunche along with a CPA and a graphing calculator?

Well, let’s figure this out.

The first option, a service called OnlineTax, will let you file for free if:

You qualify to use this software provider at no cost if:

  • your federal adjusted gross income (AGI) was between $14,000 and $69,000, regardless of age; or
  • your federal AGI was $69,000 or less and you served as Active Duty Military (including Reservists and National Guard).

There are other options: one link to something called TaxAct will help you file for free if:

  • your federal adjusted gross income (AGI) was $59,000 or less and you are age 56 or younger;
  • you qualify for the earned income tax credit (EITC); or
  • your federal AGI was $69,000 or less and you served as Active Duty Military (including Reservists and National Guard).

There’s four other selectable choices for your taxes, so definitely take a look.

I went with the OnlineTax software.

And although you can get a lot done with the W-2 form, the software does have several options in case you wish to itemize or if you deductions or if you got your healthcare from the NY State of Health marketplace or anything else.  Once the program finishes filling out your Federal taxes (and ensures that you qualify to use their software for free), it then starts calculating your state taxes.

This is where my “enforced savings” kicks in.  Every pay period, I add more than the required amount to my taxes – a few extra acorns towards the Federal taxes, a few extra pistachios toward the State taxes.  Yep, when it comes to taxes, it’s like a urology exam – in the end, taxwork can make a person really feel nuts.

So when the federal taxes were completed, I wound up with at least two big bushels of acorns coming back to me.  And two large bushels of pistachios come out of Andrew Cuomo’s pocket and go towards mine.  Sweet like sugar.

Total cost for completing my own income taxes through the New York State’s tax website?

Not one red cent.


So now comes the tax wait … hopefully I’ll receive two deposits within a few weeks.  Awesome.

See, here’s the thing.  Places like H&R Block and TurboTax and the like want you to do your taxes online, but they want you to do it with their software and to pay them for using their software.  You’re smart.  You can do your own taxes.  Just get your paperwork ready, and block off a couple of hours and take care of it.

In the end, that’s all that matters.