Tax Hacks 2016: Stop Paying to Have Your Taxes Done

Tax Day — which this year falls on April 18 — isn’t as far off as it sounds. If you need help preparing state and federal tax forms, start now so you won’t be fighting crowds in late March. The IRS starts accepting federal tax filings either on paper or electronically on Jan. 19.

Many Americans will pay someone to help them prepare and file a return. That’s no doubt a worthwhile expense for many. But free is better.

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Many national programs charge nothing to help taxpayers prepare and file their taxes. Eligibility varies by program, and most — but not all — have income qualifications.

All free programs help with simple tax situations. If you have a situation that’s complex, you probably will need to pay for help. Call the program you want to use to ask.

Here are seven free sources of help, with details and eligibility requirements, if any: 

1. Volunteer Income Tax Assistance

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An IRS-sponsored program called VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) uses trained volunteers to help taxpayers complete basic state and federal tax returns.

Who’s eligible: Generally, taxpayers earning $54,000 a year or less, the elderly, those with disabilities, and people with limited English-speaking abilities, according to the IRS.

Resources:

  • Use this online locator tool to learn when and where to find free VITA tax preparation help and whether you’ll need an appointment or can walk in. Or call 800-906-9887.
  • “Self-prep” is an alternative. You prepare and file your own basic state and federal tax forms using Web-based tax software and with help from an IRS-certified volunteer. Check online or by phone for locations offering self-preparation.
  • Here is a list of what to take with you.
  • Want to volunteer to help low- and moderate-income families with their taxes? The IRS will train you. Find out more at the IRS website.

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