Tax Hacks 2014: 5 Ways to Get Free Help With Tax Prep

Photo (cc) by 401(K) 2013

Tax season is upon us, and tax return preparers have already opened their doors to those looking to be the first to file when the Internal Revenue Service begins accepting returns on Jan. 31.

But professional tax preparation can come at a hefty price. The National Society of Accountants says the average cost to prepare a 1040 tax form with itemized deductions and a state tax return is $261, while the cost of preparing a non-itemized 1040 and state return is $152.

Looking to save money on tax return preparation this year? Money Talks News money expert Stacy Johnson offers some tips on how to get your taxes done without spending a dime. Watch the video below and continue reading for more information.

1. Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program

If your annual income is $52,000 or less, you may qualify for free basic tax return preparation and e-filing from IRS-certified volunteers through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, or VITA. The preparers can make sure you don’t miss valuable tax credits you qualify for, such as the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit.

VITA centers are located throughout the U.S. and can be found by entering your five-digit ZIP code in the Locator Tool. You can also call (800) 906-9887 to find a nearby location. Before paying them a visit, be sure to gather all the required paperwork. If at all possible, try scheduling an appointment months prior to the April 15 deadline to avoid the last-minute rush.

2. Tax Counseling for the Elderly

The IRS’ Tax Counseling for the Elderly or TCE program provides IRS-certified volunteers through AARP and other organizations to help people 60 and older prepare their taxes and to answer any tax-related questions about pensions and retirement plans.

To find the site nearest you, visit the AARP website and search by your address or county. You can also call a toll-free line at (888) 227-7669.

3. IRS Free File

Maybe you don’t qualify for assistance through VITA because your income is too high. You may still be able to prepare and e-file your federal return through IRS Free File using tax preparation software from companies that have partnered with the IRS. But that’s only if your income does not exceed $58,000. Participating companies include H&R Block, TurboTax, Free File Alliance and TaxAct.

The free editions are best for first-time filers or those with simple returns. State returns can usually be completed at a nominal rate of somewhere between $10 and $30. And be sure to get things right the first time and save a backup copy once the return is complete, as these companies will assess a fee to amend a return or reprint forms from a prior year.

4. IRS Free Fillable forms

The IRS Free File program also offers a Fillable Form component that you can use to prepare and file your tax return online free of charge, regardless of your annual income. Unfortunately, this option does not offer any on-screen assistance or state return filing options, unlike the software programs.

5. IRS resources

There’s always that good old-fashioned help that’s just a phone call or office visit away. If your tax return preparation efforts turn into an absolute nightmare, search for your nearest IRS branch and give them a call or make a trip to help alleviate your stress and receive the guidance you need. Don’t want to leave home? Head on over to IRS.gov to search for answers to all your tax questions. It’s free.

Keep in mind that complex tax returns should be prepared by a knowledgeable professional; cutting corners could cost you more money in the end. Stay tuned for upcoming posts on more of Stacy’s tax hacks. Next Wednesday, we’ll be covering tips to avoid a tax audit.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
5 Keys to Making Your Car Last for 200,000 Miles
5 Keys to Making Your Car Last for 200,000 Miles

Pushing your car to 200,000 miles — and beyond — can save you piles of cash. Here’s how to get there.

Brace to Pay More for These 26 Prescriptions in 2020
Brace to Pay More for These 26 Prescriptions in 2020

More than 600 drugs — including these commonly prescribed meds — have seen price hikes so far this year.

7 Surprising Ways Retirees Waste Their Savings
7 Surprising Ways Retirees Waste Their Savings

You can make your retirement money last a lot longer by avoiding these costly mistakes

8 Things I Always Buy at Target
8 Things I Always Buy at Target

I grew up shopping at the original Target store and am a lifelong fan. Here are my favorite purchases.

This Is the Best Used Car You Can Buy
This Is the Best Used Car You Can Buy

This car combines reliability, safety and long-lasting value.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
9 Mistakes Everyone Makes When Shopping on Amazon
9 Mistakes Everyone Makes When Shopping on Amazon

Are you losing money due to any of these missteps?

20 Things That Are Actually Worth Stockpiling
20 Things That Are Actually Worth Stockpiling

You don’t need a year’s supply of toilet paper to survive an outbreak, but consider stocking up on these items.

Can a Divorced Widow Claim Her First Husband’s Social Security Benefits?
Can a Divorced Widow Claim Her First Husband’s Social Security Benefits?

The rules are complicated when it comes to eligibility for survivors benefits.

Can a Twice-Divorced Woman Claim Social Security Survivors Benefits?
Can a Twice-Divorced Woman Claim Social Security Survivors Benefits?

Understanding survivors benefits rules is the key to getting the most from your benefit.

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

These Are the 10 Worst Cars for Depreciation
These Are the 10 Worst Cars for Depreciation

Two types of vehicles are especially likely to see steep plunges in value.

Never Buy These 10 Things With Your Credit Card
Never Buy These 10 Things With Your Credit Card

Credit cards offer many conveniences and protections, but sometimes it’s simply smarter to keep the plastic tucked away.

13 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now
13 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

10 Things I Always Buy at Trader Joe’s
10 Things I Always Buy at Trader Joe’s

From snacks to sweets to side dishes, stock your cart with these time-tested favorites on your next TJ’s run.

5 Ways Social Security Will Change in 2021
5 Ways Social Security Will Change in 2021

These adjustments will affect both workers and retirees in the new year.

11 ‘Disposable’ Items You Should Be Reusing
8 Things You Should Buy at Restaurant Supply Stores
8 Things You Should Buy at Restaurant Supply Stores

You don’t have to be a chef or a restaurant owner to shop here.

Stop Buying These 19 Things Online
Stop Buying These 19 Things Online

The internet has changed how we shop. But for some things, you’re still better off buying the old-fashioned way.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree
19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree

There are easy high-paying majors available in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required. We’re here to help you find easy degrees that pay well.

Cut These 11 Expenses Now If You Hope to Retire Early
Cut These 11 Expenses Now If You Hope to Retire Early

Like the idea of financial independence? Part of the FIRE equation is cutting costs.

7 Tips for Building an Emergency Food Supply
7 Tips for Building an Emergency Food Supply

A pandemic or natural disaster could leave you reliant on your existing emergency food supply. Is your pantry well-prepared for emergencies? Knowing what to stock up on for emergencies can be a difficult task and we’re here to help.

These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020
These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020

Medicare Advantage customers themselves rate these plans highest.

5 Secrets of Seniors Who Keep Their Minds ‘Young’
5 Secrets of Seniors Who Keep Their Minds ‘Young’

Here is why some seniors’ brains work as well as those of people who are decades younger.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.