For taxpayers, having to track down and sort tax documents is enough of a chore during the tax season. Before they can collect their tax refunds, more likely than not, they’ll also have to pay for a tax professional or tax-preparation software.
Luckily, for some people, there are a number of programs that offer free tax return preparation for eligible taxpayers. Take advantage of one of the following free tax return prep programs if you need help completing your tax return and you meet the criteria for eligibility:
IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)
Anyone who earns $51,000 a year or less can sit down and receive tax-assistance from volunteers who are certified by the IRS. The volunteers are knowledgeable in many of the tax credits and can help you determine if you qualify for various tax credits. Once your return has been completed, the volunteers will file it electronically.
If you are working on your tax return yourself but find you have a few questions or need just a little help to finish, you can also meet with an IRS-certified volunteer just to get those questions answered rather than having someone complete your entire return.
You can often find VITA program volunteers at the local library, at community centers, schools or even shopping malls. To find out the VITA location closest to you, you can use the VITA locator tool from the IRS, or call 1-800-906-9887.
For individuals 60 years and older
Another program designed to assist individuals with their income tax filing is the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program.
If you are age 60 or older, you can receive tax return preparation assistance between Jan. 1 and April 15 at no charge.
Volunteers working for the TCE program are reimbursed by the IRS for their out-of-pocket expenses (things like transportation, meals and parking expenses) they incur providing tax services to elderly taxpayers. TCE volunteers specialize in tax situations for the elderly, including pension plans and retirement plan questions, and many of the volunteers themselves are retired individuals.
Another program available to individuals age 60 and older is the AARP Tax-Aid Program. You can find an AARP site location using the online locator tool, or by calling 1-888-227-7669.
Tax preparation assistance for military personnel
Members of the United States Military can receive free tax preparation assistance through The Armed Forces Tax Council. This program, staffed by volunteers who are especially knowledgeable of the tax issues faced by military personnel, is also founded through the IRS VITA program.
If you are an eligible member of the United States military, use the locator tool at this link to find a Tax Council VITA location and they will file your tax return for you.
For individuals who prefer to file their own tax returns, you can use the online H&R Block software through Military OneSource free of charge.
IRS Free Tax Filing
If your 2012 adjusted gross income is $57,000 or less, you can use the IRS Free File program to find a participating company that offers free tax filing. Big names such as TurboTax and H&R Block are among the companies that provide this free service.
While you do not receive individualized assistance in preparing your tax return, you are guided through the process the minimize errors with your returns. Depending on the tax filing company and your state, you may also qualify for free filing of your state tax return.
For individuals with incomes greater than $57,000, there is still an option to complete the Free File Fillable Tax Forms free of charge – but again, there is no individualized assistance and you can’t file your state return free.