Free Tax Help for Seniors: 4 Resources to Save You Money and Time

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Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on The Penny Hoarder.

Tax time tends to look different after you retire.

You might be drawing income from multiple sources: Social Security, stock dividends, a pension, 401(k) withdrawals and even interest from your savings account.

You might need to report earnings from your side hustle, proceeds from a home sale or pay taxes on your Social Security benefits.

Thankfully, several programs across the country help older adults file their tax returns for free.

The IRS and AARP Foundation offer in-person and virtual tax preparation and guidance at no cost to you. Here’s how it works.

1. Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE)

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The Tax Counseling for the Elderly Program, or TCE, provides free basic tax return preparation to people ages 60 and older. The program has been around for 45 years.

The IRS provides funding to various community organizations, such as the United Way, which administer programs at the local level.

Volunteers are trained to assist with retirement-specific tax issues, including questions about pensions, Social Security and required minimum distributions.

You can rest assured your tax return is in good hands: All TCE volunteers who prepare returns are required to undergo and pass tax law training that meets or exceeds IRS standards.

You don’t need to fill out an application to receive help at a TCE site, but most locations require an appointment.

To find the nearest TCE site in your area, call 800-906-9887 or use the VITA/TCE Locator Tool.

2. Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)

Confused stressed older couple looking at bill or credit statement
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Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, or VITA, from the IRS is another free resource.

It’s similar to TCE, but tax filers of all ages can get assistance through the program.

Anyone can get help through VITA, but priority is given to:

  • People who generally make $60,000 or less
  • People with disabilities
  • Taxpayers who speak limited English

Want to take a more hands-on approach? Several VITA locations give you the option to file your own basic federal and state tax returns using web-based tax prep software. An IRS-certified volunteer can help answer any questions you have along the way and guide you through the process.

You can find the nearest VITA location near you by using the VITA/TCE Locator Tool.

VITA/TCE volunteers can help you file a variety of tax documents, including:

  • Wages from your W-2
  • Interest income (Form 1099-INT)
  • State tax refunds
  • Unemployment benefits
  • IRA distributions
  • Pension income
  • Social Security benefits (Form SSA-1099, RRB-1099)
  • Simple capital gains/losses
  • Home sale proceeds
  • Amended and prior year tax returns
  • Health savings account information
  • Education credits
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Earned Income Tax Credit

3. AARP Tax Aide

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The AARP Foundation’s Tax Aide is a nationwide program providing free in-person and virtual tax preparation services.

Anyone can get assistance but the program focuses on people ages 50 and older as well as taxpayers with low to moderate incomes.

Sites are open from late January through April 15. All Tax Aide volunteers are IRS-certified. Volunteers can help assist with state tax returns as well as federal returns.

You don’t need to be an AARP member to participate in the program.

In 2022, the program helped secure over $1 million in tax refunds for more than 1.2 million people, according to the AARP Foundation.

While volunteers can help with many tax situations, they can’t assist with:

  • Rental property income
  • Farm income
  • Moving expenses
  • Casualty and theft losses
  • The Alternative Minimum Tax
  • Losses from a self-employment business

You can find an AARP Tax Aide site near you by using this locator tool.

4. IRS Free File

IRS taxes and money
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Taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes of $73,000 or less can qualify for IRS Free File.

The program is a partnership between the IRS and companies that provide free online tax preparation and filing software.

You can search this list to find an IRS Free File provider. Or use this Online Lookup Tool from the IRS to find a provider. (The tool goes live in January.)

What Tax Documents Should I Bring With Me?

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Getting important tax documents together before you file your taxes is a smart way to save time.

Each tax preparation program is a little different, but here’s a general overview of tax information you’ll need to bring with you.

  • Income statements, including W-2s
  • Form SSA-1099 for Social Security benefits
  • Form 1099-R for pension, IRA and/or annuity income
  • Form 1099-R for disability income (if applicable)
  • Income from other all other sources, such as 1099-INT for interest income
  • Mortgage statements and property tax bills if you’re a homeowner
  • Documents detailing contributions made to a retirement account or health savings account
  • Your Social Security card
  • Government-issued state ID or driver’s license
  • Tax returns from the previous two years
  • Any communication from the IRS
  • Checking or savings account information for direct deposit

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