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I found the best way to do your taxes for free — thanks to the IRS

Woman doing taxes.
Filing taxes may've gotten a little bit easier thanks to the IRS's Direct File tool. d3sign/Getty Images
  • I canceled my appointment with an accountant to file my taxes using the IRS's Direct File tool.

  • The free software helped me finish my federal taxes in less than 40 minutes.

  • Consider me a convert.

It's the most terrible time of the year: tax season.

On top of a full-time job, house chores, and social obligations —sprinkled in with the day-to-day minutiae of modern life — adding taxes to what seems like a never-ending to-do list feels more like a burden than it should be.

It's a civic duty that I frankly barely have the time for, so I typically pay an accountant to do taxes for me.

Still, hiring a tax professional can be expensive, and right now, every dollar counts. So this year, I decided to cancel my appointment and file my taxes manually using the IRS's Direct File, a government software launched in March that lets American taxpayers complete their federal taxes online by the April 15 deadline — for free.

US Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen called Direct File an "impressive product," and former Meta product manager Dan Grover tweeted that Direct File will contend with the Apple Vision Pro and OpenAI's ChatGPT as the "biggest/most impactful product launch" in tech.

I had to see what the hype was all about. I'll admit I was skeptical that this first-of-its-kind government software would be as impressive as public officials and business leaders seem to believe.

But to my surprise, I filed my tax return in less than 40 minutes — faster than the amount of time it has taken for an accountant to do it.

Here's how it works.

First, I used the IRS's eligibility checker to see if I could use the tool. To do so, I entered my personal information, uploaded photos of my driver's license, and used a facial recognition feature to verify my identity through video. The process took about 7 minutes.

a screenshot of the IRS direct file website
Taxpayers can sign up to use the IRS's Direct File tool on its website.Screenshot of the IRS Direct File website

Once my eligibility was confirmed, I was prompted to create an IRS account. Then, I was directed to a "Checklist" page that divided the filing process into multiple sections.

I began with the "You and your family" section, where I was again asked to fill out personal details, including my name, address, marital status, and whether I was financially dependent.

Next, I filled out my income information. It's the part of doing taxes I dread the most, though I was pleasantly surprised at how easy the software made this part to complete. Direct File explained where to locate my wages and employee ID number on my W-2 form, which streamlined the data entry. In turn, I finished what I assumed to be a laborious section in 10 minutes.

After that, I filled out the "deductions and credits" portion, which was relatively straightforward with the tool's step-by-step guidance.

Once I completed those sections, the IRS tool calculated my tax refund and broke down the math behind the final figure. The calculations made sense to me, so I reviewed my information to ensure everything was accurate before I pressed submit.

10 minutes later, I got an email saying my tax return had been accepted.

I was shocked to learn that filing my taxes from start to finish took less than an hour. That's less time than an episode of the Netflix reality TV show "Love is Blind" (which I would've much rather be watching on a Monday evening over poring over financial documents).

Overall, the IRS Direct File was a useful tool that made filing my federal taxes a breeze.

Still, I was hoping I could upload my W-2 document like you can with TurboTax so I wouldn't have to fill out the text fields manually. I also wished the tool could complete my state tax return — something my accountant would do for me along with my federal taxes.

In the future, I would love to see Direct File open up its eligibility to more states, as well as for taxpayers whose streams of income come from freelancing, gig work, and rent collection.

That way, filing taxes could be less of a headache for all workers. But even with those minor gripes, I have to hand it to the IRS: doing my taxes, I realized, wasn't so bad after all.

Read the original article on Business Insider