Happy New Year! Is this going to be the year you finally decide to file your taxes before the last possible second? If so, good news: Filing for free is about to get way easier.
For 20 years, the Internal Revenue Service has had an agreement with tax prep software companies like Intuit to allow low- and middle-income families to file taxes for free. But those companies’ free options were historically difficult to find and use, and the government was forbidden from making its own version of a Free File software. (Incidentally, TurboTax parent company Intuit has spent millions of dollars on lobbyists in years past.)
Just in time for the start of 2019’s filing season, the IRS resolved to update the Free File deal with a significant addendum. It includes a few big revelations: First, all Free File options must be included in organic search results and named consistently, meaning companies can’t have the option but bury it deep on their site. Secondly, the addendum removes the IRS’ longstanding pledge “to not enter the tax-return software and e-file services marketplace”—meaning it has free rein to make its own product.
There are a few other additions and changes as well, including a provision that Free File participants randomly poll select users about customer satisfaction. You can read the full text of the addendum here.
The changes are due to be put in place in time for the 2020 filing season, or no later than Jan. 1, 2021.