Many Americans dread tax season because of how costly, time-consuming and confusing filing one’s taxes can be. Not only could you owe the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) taxes, but you may also have to pay a professional tax preparer to accurately file your taxes or pay to file certain tax forms for different types of income. This has many Americans wondering where they can get free income tax preparation to save much-needed money during tax season.
There are many forms of free tax preparation programs offered by state and federal government agencies, service organizations and reputable tax companies. Learn what free tax preparation options exist and how you can get free tax filing in 2024.
You can get free tax help when you file your taxes with the IRS’ Free File program. The IRS partners with tax preparation software companies to host a free version of the company’s software through which you can prepare and file your taxes.
All you have to do is gather your tax materials and answer the questions in the software; it takes your answers about your income, filing status (single or married), your dependents and more to fill in the forms and calculate your owed taxes for you. The Free File program is available to taxpayers who make $72,000 or less in a given year.
However, you can use the Free File Fillable Forms if you make more than $72,000. These are electronic federal forms that do not have the guided preparation prompts that make the Free File software so easy to use. That means you must be confident in your ability to do your own taxes with little to no assistance. You can always request an appointment at one of the local IRS taxpayer assistance centers, also known as an IRS Tax Assistance Center (ITAC), to get answers to your tax-filing questions.
The Free File Program is open during the annual tax season, in January through mid-April.
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) is a government-sponsored program that provides free tax assistance to taxpayers who make $57,000 or less per year. This program is also available to people with disabilities and may be more accessible for limited English-speaking taxpayers.
This program selects tax-savvy volunteers, such as local accountants, finance professionals, accounting and finance students, businesspeople and others, to prepare and file your taxes. These volunteers must take and pass extensive training courses on tax law in order to participate. In addition, the IRS does a quality check on every tax return prepared in this program to make sure everything is accurate and thorough. That makes this program incredibly trustworthy.
If you meet the income requirement, search “free tax clinics near me” to find your local VITA site to have your taxes prepared and filed. This program runs during annual tax season, from January to mid-April.
The Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program is similar to VITA in that volunteers provide free tax preparation services. However, this program is meant for people who are at least 60 years of age. If you meet this age requirement, you are eligible to receive free taxes help through the TCE program from January to mid-April. You can typically find TCE sites in the same location as the VITA program.
Older taxpayers can also get free tax help through the American Association for Retired Persons (AARP). The AARP’s Tax-Aide program is primarily meant for people who are at least 50 years old and have low to moderate income. However, everyone can take advantage of this free tax preparation program, though priority for appointments is given to older taxpayers.
The Tax-Aide Program involves having your taxes prepared and filed by a highly trained volunteer, not unlike the VITA and TCE programs. You can search for an AARP Tax-Aide location near you or visit the AARP website to find out more information about the program and how to set up an appointment when the program opens during tax season.
Active-duty and veteran military personnel and their families can get free tax help using MilTax Filing. This software is free to use and comes with complimentary tax-filing assistance, so you can call MilTax to get answers to your tax questions before, while or after using their software to file your taxes. What’s more, these professionals are specifically trained to handle the unique financial situations of military personnel and can handle situations like:
- Tax implications related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Deployment and combat pay reporting issues.
- Securing tax forgiveness and refunds for survivors.
- Providing extensions and managing deadlines.
- Questions about economic impact payments, or stimulus checks.
You are likely aware of the many companies that offer tax preparation services and tax-filing software you can use. While many of these companies have paid services and software you can take advantage of, they also have a variety of free options to help Americans make the most of their money during tax season.
For instance, many companies provide free versions of their tax-filing software for people to use. However, like the Free File Fillable Forms for people who make more than the income requirement, the free versions of company software aren’t very robust. They lack many of the helpful features that guide you through accurately and thoroughly filing your taxes.
In addition, the free versions of these software options may not be good for people with more complicated tax situations. For example, freelancers and contractors fill out different forms than those who make money and pay taxes through an employer. These forms involve more calculations, which can cost money to file them using these software options. But if you’re experienced at filing your taxes and confident you can do it right, then you may be fine with the free versions.
Here are some companies and organizations that offer free tax-filing software:
- H&R Block
- United Way’s MyFreeTaxes
- 1040.com Free File Edition
- Credit Karma
- eSmart Free File Edition
- Online Taxes at OLT.com
- TaxAct Free File
- Turbo Tax
Always read the terms and conditions before signing up for free software to ensure you are providing your private financial information through a secure and trusted program.
And be on the lookout for scams, too. The IRS will never call you to request you pay owed taxes without sending you a bill in the mail first. The IRS never initiates contact with taxpayers via email and does not provide a status update about a filed tax return via email either. If you receive such a call, email or piece of mail, contact the IRS to make sure it’s official before paying or giving anyone your personal financial information.