Need Help Filing Taxes? Here Are Some Free Programs You May Qualify For

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Need help preparing your tax return this year? You could be eligible for free tax return preparation. The IRS’ Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs provide free basic tax assistance to those who qualify.

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The VITA program offers free tax help to those who need assistance preparing their tax return. People who generally make $58,000 or less, persons with disabilities and limited-English-speaking taxpayers may qualify for the VITA program.

The TCE program also offers tax help to those who are 60 years of age or older. This program specializes in questions concerning pensions and other retirement-related issues.

The programs are managed by the IRS but are operated by IRS partners and staffed by IRS-certified volunteers. All VITA/TCE volunteers who prepare returns must take — and pass — tax law training that meets or exceeds IRS standards. The IRS also requires a quality review check for every return prepared at a VITA/TCE site prior to filing. Each tax season, tens of thousands of VITA/TCE volunteers prepare millions of federal and state returns.

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VITA/TCE services are free and — according to the IRS — are reliable and trusted sources for preparing tax returns. The IRS recommends that before going to a VITA or TCE site, look over Publication 3676-B for services provided — and make sure you have all the required documents and information that volunteers will need to assist you on hand. 

At certain affiliated tax sites, it may also be an option to prepare your own federal and state tax return for free using web-based tax preparation software. In these scenarios, an IRS-certified volunteer is also on site to offer guidance. Some VITA sites may also offer certifying acceptance agent (CAA) services along with the VITA program, meaning it is then possible to apply for an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) in-person rather than having to go through the post. It is important to note, however, that available services can vary at each tax site.

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To find a VITA or TCE site near you, use the VITA Locator Tool or call 800-906-9887. Sites are generally located at community and neighborhood centers, libraries, schools, shopping malls and other accessible locations. 

A majority of TCE sites are operated by the AARP Foundation’s Tax Aide program. To locate the nearest AARP TCE Tax Aide site between January and April, you can use the AARP Site Locator Tool or call 888-227-7669.

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About the Author

Josephine Nesbit is a freelance writer specializing in real estate and personal finance. She grew up in New England but is now based out of Ohio where she attended The Ohio State University and lives with her two toddlers and fiancé. Her work has appeared in print and online publications such as Fox Business and Scotsman Guide.
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