As tax season looms, coupled with a pandemic that hasn’t entirely ended yet, taxpayers might be confused about where they can turn to get help with their taxes.
Whether you want someone to help you fill out your tax forms or learn how taxes work by filing yourself, many free resources can help you through tax season with as little stress as possible.
Be sure you qualify
Not all free tax resources are created equal, and some have specific qualifying criteria for taxpayers to access them. Some are in place for specific populations with easy returns to file.
These services exist to help those who might not have access to many options for getting their taxes filed.
Filing taxes for free
There are tax services that allow you to file your taxes online. These are worth checking out if you are comfortable enough with your tax situation that you would be able to enter in your information and let the program calculate things for you.
IRS Free File
IRS Free File is one such online service that allows you to file your taxes for free online. However, one thing to keep in mind with IRS Free File is that there is no free option to file a state tax return.
TurboTax offers free and paid online tax filing options to complete and submit your tax return online easily.
Turbo Tax’s free service is ideal for those who have easy tax returns without complicated claims or complex forms of income.
TurboTax is a user-friendly platform for filing taxes, but keep in mind that you’ll probably be prompted to sign up for the paid service a few times. You can easily skip this, and you don’t need to upgrade to file and submit your tax return.
H&R Block has offices throughout the country that are available for taxpayers to visit to get their taxes filed, but these services cost money. Many taxpayers don’t realize there is a way to use H&R Block’s services to file their taxes online.
Of course, you don’t get the help of a tax preparer, and there are limits to what the free service can do, but there is a help center you can call if you have any difficulties. If your tax return is not too involved, it’s worth checking out their online filing service.
It’s a user-friendly platform as well, and you’re able to see your progress as you go and what you could be expecting for a refund or taxes owed.
Tax Act is also a tax filing service that you can access online to file and submit your federal and state taxes with no charge.
So if you’ve used TurboTax or H&R Block in the past and want to try something different, you can log into that previous account and send your information to TaxAct.
After completing your federal tax return, TaxAct’s intuitive system will take all the relevant information from that return and enter it into your state tax forms, so you don’t have to fill in the same information.
You can also watch your refund or taxes go up and down as you fill in more information.
Help with filing
Taxes can be confusing. You might be able to get free help filing your taxes or get free help if you have a question.
Tax Counseling for the Elderly
If you or someone you know is over the age of 60 and receives some form of retirement income, Tax Counseling for The Elderly is a no-cost service that can assist with filing these types of tax returns.
For this service, a little searching is required to ensure an office is in your area, and it’s also recommended to call and set up an appointment as services are limited due to the pandemic.
Taxpayer Advocate Service
The Taxpayer Advocate Service is operated as part of the IRS and is there to assist taxpayers who have tax issues that need to be resolved but aren’t sure where to start. Similarly, they can also aid taxpayers who haven’t been able to get the assistance they need through regular IRS channels.
This service is also recommended for those facing financial strain or in complicated tax situations involving taxes owing tax liens or other complex tax situations.
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program
For those who don’t have a complicated tax situation, there is the opportunity to use the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program offered through the Internal Revenue Service.
Unfortunately, this fantastic service was scaled back slightly due to COVID, so it could be hard to find help, but it’s worth searching in your area.
This program is also limited to those whose income falls under $57,000. It’s also an option for taxpayers who are older or have disabilities and may not have access to many other options in terms of tax help due to limited mobility and income.
Interactive Tax Assistant
If you have some reasonably uninvolved tax questions, you can use the Interactive Tax Assistant available on the IRS website.
You can search and get help with questions about your particular income, and which credits you might be able to claim.
Additionally, you can also find general information about what is required for the particular tax year in terms of dates.
Furthermore, you can access some frequently asked questions and other essential resources that will give you more information about taxes in general.
Internal Revenue Service Assistance Centers
If you have an IRS center in your locality and have questions about particular tax forms, specific claims, or need some help gathering necessary documents, it’s worth visiting these centers.
You will want to call ahead to ensure you follow their COVID protocols, and you should arrive at the center with your necessary tax documents and any questions you have prepared. They will not file your taxes for you, but they will help you navigate the tax world as best as possible.
The Internal Revenue Service Helpline
While you also can’t call the IRS to file your taxes for you, you can call them when you have questions about claims or income information.
But unfortunately, they can be contacted by phone, and many don’t take advantage of this free, helpful service.
There are some more in-depth tax situations that a representative might have to refer you to a professional for.
Still, these representatives are more than happy to help with tax questions within the scope of their training.
Vetting the free tax resources you use is essential to ensure you don’t get taken advantage of and ensure that you are using safe online services that protect your information.
You should be wary of services that seem too good to be true, such as purported professional accountants that will file your complicated taxes for free. No legitimate accountant would do this unless they are your friend.
Taxes are not the easiest to complete, but they are a must. The fear of doing something wrong on taxes is valid but knowing that there are ample resources to help without hurting your wallet can give you some peace of mind.
No question is too simple to ask, and it’s always better to ask before making an avoidable mistake on your taxes.
Photo by: [Stevepb]