Doing your taxes isn’t easy, and not everyone can afford professional help. There are many different free options that you may be able to use. Their availability depends on your age, income, military status, and filing needs. Here’s how to get free tax help, either online, on the phone, or in person.
IRS Free File
This year, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is again offering the IRS Free File program. Free File is available to any taxpayers who earned $69,000 or less in the 2019 tax year.
If you qualify, Free File’s tax preparation software partners will offer you one or more free commercial tax prep services. You can even use the program to file your taxes electronically, at no additional cost. Depending on the software you get, you may also have access to free state income tax filing.
If you earn more than $69,000 a year, you’ll still have access to some of Free File’s features. You can prepare your tax returns electronically, rather than needing to use a pen and paper. The forms will also check your math, so you don’t make any mistakes. Errors could cause a delay when the IRS processes your tax return.
Last year, some tax preparation software providers may have made it difficult for those qualifying for Free File to find the appropriate free service. Some users felt pushed toward competing products. They also were charged fees for a service that they believed was free. That left many taxpayers feeling cheated.
This year, Free File providers can’t prevent their Free File page from showing up in and internet search. Meanwhile, providers can’t charge qualified taxpayers fees for federal return preparation and electronic filing.
If you qualify for the Free File program and want to make sure you have a legitimate offer, you can check the name. Legitimate offers should be called “IRS Free File Program Delivered By” and then end with the name of the tax software provider or software platform.
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, or VITA, is a program partly funded by IRS grants, with locations in shopping malls, schools, and libraries. IRS-certified volunteers offer tax-preparation services to low and moderate-income filers, older Americans, individuals with disabilities, and those with limited English language skills.
In general, your income must be below $55,000 per year to qualify for VITA’s free tax help. Most VITA sites are available from February until April, but some sites remain open until the filing extension deadline in October. VITA can help you prepare your tax return, and most locations will also e-file your tax return for you. This IRS tool can help you find your local VITA site, or you can call toll-free at 800-906-9887.
Tax Counseling for the Elderly
Tax Counseling for the Elderly, or TCE, is available to individuals aged 60 and older. The program offers tax preparation and counseling services from IRS-certified volunteers. TCE is partially funded by IRS grants, which partner with local non-profits to train volunteers to help senior citizens with their tax returns. You can find a TCE location and learn more about the program by calling 888-227-7669 toll-free.
If you have a low to moderate income, you can get free tax help from IRS-certified volunteers from Feb. 1 until April 15. This program has been around for over 50 years. You don’t have to be an AARP member, and there is no age requirement to get free tax help. AARP offers a Tax-Aide Site Locator so you can find a location near you, or you can call 888-227-7669 toll-free.
MilTax and the Armed Forces Tax Council
The Armed Forces Tax Council, part of the IRS-funded VITA program, offers free tax help for military personnel. It especially trains volunteers in tax issues that military members frequently encounter.
MilTax is a Department of Defense program that provides free tax software from H&R Block as well as financial and legal resources and other help to military personnel and military families. You can also speak to a tax adviser at no cost by calling the Military OneSource Tax Hotline at 800-730-3802.
Low-Income Taxpayer Clinics
The Low Income Taxpayer Clinic Program (LITC) receives some funding from the IRS and is supervised by the Taxpayer Advocate Service. The program is designed to help people and families with incomes lower than 250% of the federal poverty limit. However, each individual clinic will decide if a taxpayer meets their guidelines.
The program provides low-cost or free tax help to taxpayers who need assistance solving tax problems, like income tax audits and tax collection disputes. LITCs are operated by nonprofits, universities, and law schools. They can also offer legal representation if you have to go to tax court to resolve your tax issues and assistance to individuals whose primary language is not English. The IRS has an online directory of tax clinics.
Other Free Tax Help
Tax issues don’t always involve filing a return. If you’re having other problems with your taxes, other services can assist you:
Taxpayer Assistance Centers
Although these centers can’t actually help you prepare a tax return, they offer free assistance in setting up payment plans, understanding letters from the IRS, and solving any tax problems. They will also review your documents before you file to help make sure you have everything in order. These centers are mainly in larger cities, and you’ll need to make an appointment ahead of time. You can check the IRS website to find a center near you.
Taxpayer Advocate Service
If you haven’t been able to solve your tax problems by dealing directly with the IRS, the Taxpayer Advocate Service can help you. The taxpayer advocate service should be used when you have an issue bigger than simply trying to file your return. The organization reports directly to Congress and is independent of the IRS. It helps both businesses and individuals who are having long-term struggles with a tax issues, no matter what their income level. You can call them toll-free at 877-777-4778.
The Bottom Line
If you’re going to be using any of these services, make sure you have all your tax documents and other important information available, including all your W-2 and 1099 forms for the tax year, a copy of last year’s tax return, your Social Security card, photo ID, your birth date, and health insurance statements or a Form 1095 from your health insurance provider. If you have a spouse or dependents, you’ll also want to have their birth dates and Social Security numbers available. Filing taxes might seem complicated, but the good news is that with the right information and some help, you can streamline the process.
- If you’re able to afford professional tax help, it can be a great investment. A tax preparer or tax accountant can help you figure out what deductions you’re able to claim based off of your job, filing status and lifestyle. You can also work with a financial advisor who can help you properly prepare for tax time. Finding a financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
- If you want professional tax help maximizing your deductions, but would prefer to use an online service, TurboTax or TaxSlayer can help you minimize your tax bill and maximize your refund.
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