Take Advantage of Free Tax PreparationPublished:
It’s pretty safe to say that everyone is interested in free tax preparation. However, a lot of people do not want to spend money preparing their taxes because they have no idea how much they will owe the IRS. If free tax preparation help is something that you want to take advantage of, there are many options you can consider.
There are a few different ways you can get assistance if you are looking for free tax help with preparing and filing your return.
IRS Taxpayer Assistance Programs
The IRS offers two programs for those seeking free tax preparation help:
- Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)
- Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE)
Note that in order for you to be able to use one of these tax assistance programs, there are certain eligibility requirements that you’ll need to meet.
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) is a program that provides free tax help in many communities around the country. VITA allows taxpayers with simple returns to get face-to-face tax preparation help with volunteers. VITA programs are offered through local community organizations that have partnered with the IRS. You can find a VITA site near you by going to the IRS website or by calling (800) 906-9887.
Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) is a program designed to help certain qualified elderly taxpayers (aged 60 or older) prepare their income tax returns. In fact, AARP is the largest organization to partner with the IRS, offering the “AARP Tax-Aide Program.” Those who qualify can find a local TCE site by calling (888) 227-7669 or by going online and visiting the AARP website.
Taxpayers can always visit the IRS website to find tax forms, instructions, and recent tax news regarding tax preparation and filing. On this site, users will find “1040 Central” — a hub of information that gives you access to a variety of online tools, and publications related to your individual income taxes. Examples of these useful applications include the following: Free File, Interactive Tax Assistant, Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Assistant, Free Fillable Forms, IRS Withholding Tax Calculator, Where’s My Refund status check, and more.
IRS Tax Help Line
The IRS Tax Help Line for Individuals can be reached at (800) 829-1040 is available for individuals who need answers to Federal tax questions. If you call (800) 829-4477, you can listen to pre-recorded messages on a range of tax topics, as well as check the status of your Federal tax refund. The IRS also allows you to ask tax questions or order tax forms, instructions, and publications by calling (800) 829-4059.
IRS “Free File” Service
According to the IRS, “Free File is the fast, easy, and free way to prepare and e-file your federal taxes online.” Free File is an online service offered by the IRS that provides free step-by-step tax preparation help and electronic filing for qualified income tax returns. If you filed a tax extension, you can use Free File to prepare and submit your Federal tax return through the extended deadline (October 15).
With the IRS Free File option, there are some things you have to keep in mind. For instance, your adjusted gross income (AGI) must be $58,000 or less in order to be able to use this tax preparation service. Although if you annual income exceeds that limit, you can still usually find a free tax filing option online. (Just make sure you use a reputable company to avoid falling victim to a tax scam.)
Free Tax Preparation Software
Some websites and companies offer free tax preparation for a simple Federal return. Just make sure you are working with a reputable company because there are a lot of scams out there designed to fool you. Consider using a free online tool (such as a tax calculator) to help you prepare your return. Then combine whatever free services you can find and e-file your tax return online (which saves you the cost of postage).
VERSUS: Doing it Yourself
When it comes to free tax preparation there is obviously no cheaper option than tackling your tax return without any outside help. Since you are doing all the work yourself, you do not have to worry about paying for the cost of tax preparation. However, the downfall is that you are going to be on your own during the majority of the tax preparation process, which includes researching current tax laws and reading (and fully comprehending) IRS tax forms, instructions, and publications.
There is nothing wrong with preparing and filing your taxes by yourself. Just make sure that you are equipped with the necessary knowledge to file an accurate tax return.
For more information about free tax preparation help offered by the IRS, please see IRS Publication 910 (IRS Guide to Free Tax Services) which you can find online (irs.gov) or request by telephone (800-829-3676).
There are many methods of free tax preparation for you to consider as tax season approaches. You can use one of the free tax help programs offered by the IRS or you can turn to tax preparation software. Additionally, you can always learn how to prepare and file taxes for yourself.
Consider the above methods of free tax preparation help before you unnecessarily part with any money for expensive software or professional services. You may find all the help you need right here!