4 Ways to Get Your Taxes Done Free

Photo (cc) by Philip Taylor PT

Tax season is finally here – the IRS began accepting returns on Jan. 30. But before you rush to make an expensive appointment, check out cheaper options.

Estimates suggest Americans spend more than $100 billion a year on tax preparation. But according to the IRS, 70 percent of Americans are eligible for free professional tax preparation and filing software. If you wouldn’t pass up an easy deduction, why would you overpay to file?

In the video below, Money Talks News founder and CPA Stacy Johnson has one of the most popular tax hacks around – where to get taxes done free. Check it out, and then read on for more details.

As you saw in the video, there are different options depending on your age and income level – but practically everybody has some option cheaper than a tax pro…

2012 income below $51,000? Free in-person help

Check out the IRS’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, or VITA. They offer free preparation from trained volunteers, complete with information on tax credits you might qualify for. Most include free electronic filing as well.

There are thousands of locations across the country in schools, libraries, malls, and community centers. You can look up free tax prep locations by ZIP code – there were five within as many miles in my area, and only one required appointments. You can also call 1-800-906-9887 to find a location.

Although many take walk-ins – providing they show up with all their paperwork – it’s probably a good idea to make an appointment just in case. The closer to Tax Day (April 15) we get, the more hectic things will be.

Free in-person help for people 60-plus

If you’re over 60 years old, and have low to mid-income, you’re eligible for the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program. These preparers provided through the AARP have special knowledge of tax issues related to retirement and pension plans.

You don’t have to be an AARP member to qualify – just use their website and find an AARP Tax Aide near you, or call 1-888-227-7669.

When I did a check for locations near me, I found three within 15 miles of my home.

Free online prep and filing for incomes $57,000 or less

If you’re too young or make too much, you’re not out of luck. Make $57,000 or less and you can use IRS Free File tax software. Answer a few basic questions and the site will help you pick one of several free tax preparation options.

While these sites will help you prepare and file free, there’s often a fee for filing a state return, amending your federal return, or pulling up a previous year’s return. Fees vary, but often run between $10 and $40 for each of these snags. So shop around, do things right the first time, and keep both digital and hard copies when you file.

Free online filing and tax help for everybody else

There are two components to the IRS free file system – the preparation help is only for those with gross incomes at or below $57,000. But the online filing part is free for everyone. So if you’re ready to fill out your own forms, use the IRS’s Free File Fillable Forms instead of mailing in a pen-and-paper version.

While using the Fillable Forms doesn’t provide the step-by-step guidance of software or the personal touch of human volunteers, you’re still not out in the cold. If you get stumped you can always get free help from the IRS by visiting a local office or calling them at 1-800-829-1040.

Another option is hitting IRS.gov. They have every tax publication online and a searchable tax FAQ. Not the simplest thing to navigate, perhaps, but you can’t beat the price.

Finally, there’s us! We’ll be continuing our series of tax hacks over the next few weeks, so look for a lot more tips and tricks to save you time, money, and the risk of an audit. On Wednesday, we’ll talk about how to find the best tax pro.

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

Read Next
26 Things Everyone Should Keep in Their Car
26 Things Everyone Should Keep in Their Car

These tools and conveniences help protect drivers from hassles and calamities on the road.

How Much of My Social Security Benefit Can My Ex Take From Me?
How Much of My Social Security Benefit Can My Ex Take From Me?

A man wonders if his ex-wife will siphon away his Social Security benefit.

7 Things I Never Buy at Costco
7 Things I Never Buy at Costco

A bulk buy isn’t always the best buy. Here’s where I shop for these items instead of a warehouse club.

10 Common Ways Seniors Get Scammed
10 Common Ways Seniors Get Scammed

Here’s what to watch for to make sure you don’t fall prey to some of the biggest rip-offs targeting seniors.

5 Simple Steps to an Awesome Retirement
5 Simple Steps to an Awesome Retirement

The path to your dream retirement begins with these five steps. How many have you already taken?

View this page without ads

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

Get Started

Most Popular
11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco
11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco

This leader in bulk shopping is a great place to find discounts in the fixed-income years.

Over 50? The CDC Says You Need These 4 Vaccines
Over 50? The CDC Says You Need These 4 Vaccines

Fall is the time to schedule vaccines that can keep you healthy — and even save your life.

11 Senior Discounts for Anyone Age 55 or Older
11 Senior Discounts for Anyone Age 55 or Older

There is no need to wait until you’re 65 to take advantage of so-called “senior” discounts.

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.

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.

8 Things You Can Get for Free at Pharmacies
8 Things You Can Get for Free at Pharmacies

In this age of higher-priced drugs and complex health care systems, a trip to the pharmacy can spark worry. Freebies sure do help.

9 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday
9 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday

These items are all steeply discounted — but the deals won’t last long.

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.

The 10 Most Commonly Stolen Vehicles in America
The 10 Most Commonly Stolen Vehicles in America

A new model parks atop the list of vehicles that thieves love to pilfer.

7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast
7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast

Your financial security might soon depend upon the strength of your credit score.

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

These jobs pay more than the typical job in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required.

Do This in the Car If You Want to Avoid COVID-19
Do This in the Car If You Want to Avoid COVID-19

It takes just seconds to take this simple preventive measure.

Netflix Hikes Prices: Here Are 10 Cheaper Streaming Options
Netflix Hikes Prices: Here Are 10 Cheaper Streaming Options

Prepare to dig a little deeper into your wallet for Netflix — or switch to a cheaper alternative.

10 Reasons Why You Should Actually Retire at 62
10 Reasons Why You Should Actually Retire at 62

If you can, here are several good reasons to retire earlier than we’re told to.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

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.

15 Products You Need — Even If You Didn’t Know It
15 Products You Need — Even If You Didn’t Know It

Discover some must-have products on Amazon that you didn’t even know you were missing.

14 Things That Are ‘Free’ With Medicare
14 Things That Are ‘Free’ With Medicare

These services could save you money and help prevent costly health problems.

26 States That Do Not Tax Social Security Income
26 States That Do Not Tax Social Security Income

These states won’t tax any of your Social Security income — and in some cases, other types of retirement income.

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.