Anyone who does his own taxes knows how confusing it can be to make sure you’re taking all deductions correctly. Tax forms can be so complicated that even seasoned DIY tax preparers sometimes need a little help.
Fortunately, free tax services are available with advice. Explore your options and get answers today — so you don’t get penalized for filing late.
1. IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program
The IRS’ Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program provides free tax help to those who earn $54,000 or less per year, persons with disabilities and those who don’t speak fluent English. IRS-certified volunteers run the program and provide free help — including tax preparation and electronic filing — to taxpayers who meet the eligibility requirements and are preparing basic returns.
Look for a VITA site at a neighborhood center, local school, mall or library. You can also call 800-906-9887 to find the VITA site closest to you, or use the VITA locator tool on the IRS website.
2. IRS Tax Counseling for the Elderly Program
You can get IRS tax help from another one of its programs, Tax Counseling for the Elderly. Despite its name, this program provides free tax help for all taxpayers. However, TCE caters particularly to those who are 60 and older by answering questions about pensions and retirement-related issues.
Often, the IRS-certified volunteers who run this program are retired individuals themselves who are affiliated with nonprofit organizations that receive IRS grants. In addition, many TCE sites are run by the AARP Foundation’s Tax Aide program.
To find a TCE near you, call 888-227-7669. Or, use the use the VITA/TCE locator tool at the IRS website.
3. IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service
You might also qualify for a free taxpayer advocate through the IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service. People often need assistance with tax problems, such as requiring back-tax help or other services. The advocate can provide assistance for a wide range of tax-related problems you might be experiencing.
4. AARP Foundation Tax-Aide
The AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program offers free tax preparation for low-income individuals — particularly those over 50 — at more than 5,000 locations across the country. Bring all your necessary receipts and tax-related documents to get help filing. To locate an AARP Foundation Tax-Aide site near you, call 888-687-2277, or visit the AARP website.
5. Free File Alliance and IRS Free File
If you need free tax filing 2016 return help, consider using Free File, a combined effort of the IRS and the Free File Alliance, comprised of 12 tax software companies. About 100 million taxpayers — more than 70 percent of all taxpayers — are eligible for the program, which offers free assistance in walking you through the steps of preparing a return, ensuring your calculations are accurate and even providing free tax filing.
You can access Free File at the IRS website. Since 2003, more than 49 million people have used Free File, according to the Free File Alliance. That has translated into savings of almost $1.4 billion.
6. H&R Block Calculator
The H&R Block calculator offers an easy, convenient way to get help with taxes. You answer questions about your income and expenses and get a free estimate of how much you’ll owe, or how much you’ll get back.
H&R Block offers additional free calculators that can help you understand your refund amount or balance due based on your W-4, and understand how the Affordable Care Act health reform will impact your taxes.
7. TurboTax Live Community
If you need answers to your tax questions, try asking the TurboTax Live Community. Connect with TurboTax employees and users, as well as tax experts who help take the mystery out of preparing a return.
You can post a question on the site to get answers and tax tips, and read others’ questions that are similar to yours. In addition, you can browse or search for popular topics and easily find answers.
Vet Your Free Tax Service
If you choose a free service not on this list, make sure the organization is legitimate. Read reviews online or search for the company’s name with the word “scams” after it. Ask friends and family for suggestions. Finally, always check with the Better Business Bureau to see how the tax service company is rated.