Taxes 2011 – 3 Tips for Free Help

Man doing taxes
Photo by baranq / Shutterstock.com

Every year Americans spend millions of dollars paying professionals to do their tax returns when they could be getting the same help free.

Don’t be one of those Americans.

If you made less than $49,000 last year, you can have your taxes prepared and electronically filed by a trained volunteer for nothing. If you made up to $58,000, you can find free online preparation and electronic filing. And no matter how much you made, if you’re willing to fill in the forms online, you can also file electronically for free.

Income less than $49,000 in 2010: free in-person help

Check with Volunteer Income Tax Assistance. There are thousands of VITA sites in places like churches, community centers, libraries, schools, malls, and military bases, as well as in some IRS offices: The office we visited to do the story above was located in a nearby county assistance office.

To find one near you, just go to a search engine and type “VITA sites” along with your city or state. In my state (Florida) there are 79 pages of VITA sites. So finding one isn’t tough. There are a few limitations, however, so check out this list of criteria for free preparation to make sure you qualify.

Over 60: free in-person help

If you’re over 60 with low to middle income, AARP also has thousands of places you can go for free preparation and filing. You do not have to belong to AARP. To find a site, just go to this AARP web page and put in your zip code.

Income less than $58,000: free online preparation and electronic filing

If you make too much for VITA and/or aren’t old enough for AARP, you can still have your taxes prepared and filed for free online. According to the IRS, 70 percent of American taxpayers – 98 million people – qualify. If you made $58,000 or less, head to this page on the IRS website. When you get there, you’ll be asked to provide some basic information, then you can select from any number of companies that participate in the program.

Most companies will charge you to prepare your state tax return, however, and prices are all over the place. Some charge $15 and some $40. So shop around.

Special note for those who made more than $58,000 last year: While the companies you find at the free preparation and filing site won’t file your taxes free, this list is a good place to comparison shop online preparation options. For example, I found several sites that claim to prepare and file your federal income taxes for less than 10 bucks. That’s a lot better deal than the heavily advertised tax software you find at retailers this time of year.

Any income: free filing with online forms

If all you need to do is fill in online forms – in other words, you don’t need any advice from either a person or an electronic preparation program – you can prepare and electronically file your taxes absolutely free. Here’s the IRS Free File Fillable Forms site. While no advice is available with this option, the forms will check your math. So if your situation hasn’t changed all that much from last year, you could just pull out last year’s return, input this year’s numbers, and be done. But be aware that there’s a slew of tax changes this year. Here’s a link to a recent story I did that lists them. Also note this option doesn’t offer state tax returns.

Any income: free assistance on the phone or in person

You can always get free help from the IRS by visiting an office or calling (800) 829-1040. And while it’s not the easiest reading in the world, you can also find a lot of answers by doing a search at irs.gov.

If you show, they won’t tell.

Some tax preparation services will happily pocket your money for doing your taxes even though they know you could easily get free in-person assistance elsewhere. I’ve asked employees of our nation’s largest tax preparation services if they feel any guilt over charging people when they’re aware VITA would help them free. Their response? Nope: It’s the responsibility of customers to explore their options.

Fine: Now you know your options. Don’t waste your money.

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

Read Next
9 Products That Will Organize Your Home for Under $45
9 Products That Will Organize Your Home for Under $45

These clever Amazon finds can help transform a messy nest into the pristine home of your dreams.

6 Investing Tools That Help You Diversify
6 Investing Tools That Help You Diversify

Here’s how you can lend to startup businesses, fund social causes or get in on investments once available only to the very rich.

12 Ways to Maximize Your Social Security Checks
12 Ways to Maximize Your Social Security Checks

You may be eligible for more retirement income than you realize.

12 Expenses You May Be Tempted to Claim as Tax Deductions — but Shouldn’t
12 Expenses You May Be Tempted to Claim as Tax Deductions — but Shouldn’t

Thinking of trying to deduct a few of these things on your federal tax return? That could be a costly mistake.

19 Purchases That Buyers Almost Always Regret
19 Purchases That Buyers Almost Always Regret

Think twice before buying these things.

View this page without ads

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

Get Started

Most Popular
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.

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 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.

The 15 Worst States for Retirees in 2020
The 15 Worst States for Retirees in 2020

Based on dozens of metrics tied to affordability, quality of life and health care, these are not ideal places to spend retirement.

11 Household Items That Go Bad — or Become Dangerous
11 Household Items That Go Bad — or Become Dangerous

When you get the impulse to stockpile these everyday items, pay close attention to their expiration dates.

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.

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.

This Is the Cheapest Place to Buy a Used Car
This Is the Cheapest Place to Buy a Used Car

Looking for a good deal on a set of wheels? This should be your first stop.

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.

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.

10 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday
10 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday

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

Could You Give Up These 7 Expenses to Save Thousands of Dollars a Year?
Could You Give Up These 7 Expenses to Save Thousands of Dollars a Year?

You could save more than $30,000 by setting aside these costly expenses for just one year.

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.

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.

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.

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.

5 Things That Make Life More Meaningful for Retirees
5 Things That Make Life More Meaningful for Retirees

Retirees agree: These are the things that give them purpose and fulfillment in their golden years.

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

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

7 Reasons Not to Move When You Retire
7 Reasons Not to Move When You Retire

Sunny skies and warm breezes sound great. But in reality, you might be better off retiring closer to home.

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.