Every year the tax code is revamped putting a lot of stress on taxpayers. There are stiff penalties for declaring certain things incorrectly on your tax return, especially if certain tax breaks, like the Earned Income Tax Credit, are fraudulently claimed. If you are unsure of what you are doing, it is advisable to seek expert assistance in preparing your taxes.
Professional tax preparation can be very costly, with it being $150 for a standard 1040 Form without itemized deductions. Luckily, there are many places you can go for free tax help without having to worry about income restrictions.
Free Tax Preparation Software
You can be eligible to use Free File, the IRS’ free tax preparation service if your yearly income is below $64,000. Using the Free File software, you can prepare and file your Federal income tax return for free and the list of companies that partake can be found on the IRS website.
Free File software is the same as the commercial tax preparation software that you buy. But it should be noted that only a few Free File providers e-file state tax returns for free. Considering this, you should choose a provider that will cover all areas of your tax filing needs.
You can also get extra help from volunteer organizations. The VITA program and the TCE program offer more help to use IRS Free File.
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program
You might be eligible for assistance on tax filing for free through the VITA program if your yearly income is equal to or below $53,000. The program is specifically geared to help people with lower income, disabilities, limited English speaking skills, as well as elderly taxpayers.
VITA is a network of volunteer tax preparers from all over the U.S., consisting of many retirees having links with a non-profit organization wanting to contribute to their communities. VITA volunteers are certified by the IRS and qualified to give people basic tax return preparation and e-filing advice.
VITA’s are usually located in or near community centers, libraries, schools, and shopping malls. Call 800-906-9887 or use the online VITA Locator Tool to find your local VITA site.
Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) Program
Assistance with tax is provided for free to all taxpayers by the TCE program, however, its specialty lies in helping the elderly, namely those who are 60 or older. Volunteers from TCE are well qualified when it comes to answering questions about pensions, retirement income, and other tax issues that affect seniors.
TCE’s sites are located in the same places as those of VITA. Call 800-906-9887 or use the online TCE Locator Tool to find your local TCE place.
The AARP Foundation’s Tax-Aide program operates many of the TCE centers. You can call your local AARP TCE Tax-Aide site by calling 888-227-7669 or using the online AARP Site Locator Tool.
What You Should Bring to the VITA or TCE Center
Make sure that you call the center to confirm that it offers the services you need prior to visiting them. Your case may or may not be relevant to the skills of the volunteers present, so be sure you check before you visit.
Bring along all of your pertinent tax information and documents to get the most out of the volunteer tax services including the following:
- A government-issued photo ID
- Social Security cards for you and your dependents (and your spouse, if filing jointly)
- All income documentation (e.g., W-2s, 1099s, and interest income)
- Proof of health insurance
The IRS website contains the full checklist. It might be necessary to bring additional documentation depending on your case, especially if you have special circumstances. So call the center ahead of time in order to confirm.
Featured Image: DepositPhotos/ tashatuvango