The countdown to the tax deadline has begun: This year, Tax Day is April 15.
Millions of people take a DIY approach to taxes, and we can help with that. Money Talks News has a lot of articles on tax topics. Or, if you’re having trouble with tax debt, check out “Get Help With Tax Debt” in the Money Talks News Solutions Center.
However, if you need help preparing state and federal tax forms, there is little time to delay.
Many Americans will pay someone to help them prepare and file a return. That is probably a worthwhile expense for some. But “free” is the best price for many others.
So, before you go out and throw down several hundred bucks, check out these gratis alternatives. Many national programs charge nothing to help taxpayers prepare and file their taxes. See whether your tax situation and income meet qualifications for these seven free programs:
6 ways to get your taxes done for free
6 ways to get your taxes done for free
1. Volunteer Income Tax Assistance
The free IRS-sponsored program VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) uses trained volunteers to help taxpayers complete basic state and federal tax returns.
Who’s eligible: Generally, taxpayers earning $54,000 a year or less, those with disabilities and people with limited English-language abilities, according to the IRS.
“Self-prep” is an alternative. You prepare and file your own basic state and federal tax forms using web-based tax software and with help from an IRS-certified volunteer. The option is available at VITA locations that list “Self-Prep” in the site listing.
Want to volunteer to help low- and moderate-income families with their taxes? The IRS will train you. Find out more at the IRS website.
2. Tax Counseling for the Elderly
IRS-certified volunteers provide free tax preparation to older taxpayers through the TCE (Tax Counseling for the Elderly) program. Many volunteers are retired people associated with nonprofit organizations that receive grants from the IRS.
Who’s eligible: The IRS says the program “offers free tax help for all taxpayers, particularly those who are 60 years of age and older.”
Use the IRS online locator tool to learn when and where to find free TCE tax preparation help and whether you’ll need an appointment or can walk in. Or you can call 800-906-9887. The IRS website also provides a list of what to bring with you to the appointment.
3. IRS Free File
Free File is a partnership between the IRS and makers of commercial tax-preparation software participating in the IRS Free File program. Depending on your level of income, eligible taxpayers get free use of one of the following:
Free File, secure, free brand-name tax preparation software that includes help with state returns.
Free File fillable forms. State tax preparation is not included.
Who’s eligible: If your income is below a specific level, you qualify to use the Free File tax preparation software.
If your income is above that mark, you are limited to using the free, fillable, electronic versions of paper tax forms. These forms will do your tax math for you, but you only receive basic guidance.
Free File fillable forms won’t be available until Jan. 28, according to the IRS’ Free File webpage.
Several commercial tax-preparation companies offer free, basic online versions of their software. These include TurboTax, TaxAct and H&R Block, among others.
The major benefit with any free tax service is in the money you save. However, these services have limitations, which vary by product:
Some don’t offer free help with state returns.
Free products are for simple tax situations. Before using a free product, check the company’s website to compare the free product with costs and features of the company’s paid products.
You might run into hidden fees. For example, you might be charged a convenience fee if you pay your tax bill using a credit card.
5. United Way: My Free Taxes
My Free Taxes is a United Way program that offers free tax help using H&R Blocksoftware. Help is free with both state and federal tax forms. Support is available in English and Spanish.
Who’s eligible: Individuals or families with a combined household income of under $66,000 are eligible for free help.
6. More free IRS resources
You can get other kinds of free help from the IRS. For example, visit a local taxpayer assistance office — use this locator to find one near you.
Individuals can also phone the IRS for help at 800-829-1040; other numbers are available for businesses, those with hearing difficulties or other concerns. Or, search online at IRS.gov for tax forms and publications.
Medical expenses can take a bite out of your budget, especially if you have unforeseen emergencies that are not fully covered by your insurance. The Internal Revenue Service allows taxpayers some relief, making some of these expenses partly tax-deductible. To take advantage of this tax deduction, you need to know what counts as a medical expense and how to claim the deduction.
If you're like most taxpayers, you're expecting a tax refund this year. The average refund amount for tax year 2019 was $2,725. If you want to boost your tax refund, consider investing in your retirement or your home before filing your taxes.
Some tax deductions offered by the IRS encourage taxpayers to help society. Whether it’s encouraging donations to charity or caring for elderly relatives, there are several ways to reduce your own tax burden and feel good about how you did it. Here are seven tax breaks that might bring a smile to your face.