It’s tax time again and taxpayers are being bombarded with commercials from large tax franchises and the corporate owners of do-it-yourself (DIY) software. But hiring a professional or paying for DIY software can be beyond the means of many low- to middle-income taxpayers. What follows is a list of resources available for taxpayers looking for free help with filing their 2022 income tax returns.
If you want to do your own taxes, you can use the IRS Free File Program which is best accessed directly from irs.gov. Free File offers a guided program (provided by private partners) with some state filing included or fillable tax forms with no state filing. This year especially Treasury and the IRS are encouraging taxpayers to do whatever they can to avoid filing a paper return. Consequently it is recommended that you choose the guided online program as opposed to the fillable forms. Fred Stein, CPA owner of BQ Tax & Accounting Services, notes that if you need free state filing in addition to filing your federal return it is best to start at your state taxing authority’s website and access Free File from there. Two of the largest Free File partners in prior years, H&R Block and Intuit’s Turbo Tax, are not participating in the Free File program this year, nevertheless there are still several options available to choose from depending on your income level and state needs. Even when not completely free (such as for filing state returns) programs offered through these IRS partners are typically reasonably priced.
If you are a military family you can use MilTax from Military One Source. According to the website, and in addition to the filing service itself, “MilTax provides consultation services designed specifically for the military community, and an extensive knowledge center of articles and resources designed to help you prepare and file your taxes.” This service allows free e-filing of federal and up to three state tax returns. The site is funded by the Department of Defense and does not require a computer (i.e., there is no software to download). Returns can be prepared using a web browser on a tablet or mobile phone.
The IRS Tax Counselling for the Elderly (TCE) program offers free help to seniors age 60 and older using cooperative grants. A complete list of grant-funded partners for the 2022 TCE program can be found here.
The IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program is available to taxpayers who meet the income qualifications. VITA sites can be especially helpful for seniors, limited English speakers, the disabled, and households earning less than $58,000 per year.
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The AARP Foundation’s Tax-Aide Service offers in-person and remote assistance with tax filing with a “special focus on taxpayers who are over 50 or have low to moderate income.”
Finally, some Low Income Tax Clinics (LITCs) may offer return preparation services or, if you meet certain income and/or situation specific requirements, provide you with a referral to someone on their pro bono panel who will help you for free or at a significant discount. The services LITCs provide depend on their funding and on their location so this may not be an option for all low-income taxpayers.
If you are looking for help preparing your taxes please remember that, while there are many free and low cost options available to taxpayers who qualify, taxpayers with higher incomes or more complex returns will usually require a good DIY option or the services of a professional and will be charged accordingly.