8 Ways to File Your Taxes for Free
If you've spent any time in front of the TV procrastinating on your taxes, you've probably seen the "Get your billions back, America" commercial. The problem is that while the companies offering these tax preparation deals are offering you a reduction in price, they're still pocketing some of the savings that could be all yours. Instead, opt to preserve as much of your refund as possible (hopefully all of it!) by finding ways to file your taxes for free. To speed up the process, here are a few truly free ways to pay your dues to the IRS.
1. Free Software
You'll see a pattern in this post: Many of the free services have an income threshold cap of about $50,000 to $60,000. If you're under the latter bracket, you can in many cases use free tax software from TurboTax, TaxACT, TaxSlayer, or H&R Block, says financial expert Harrine Freeman. Keep in mind that if your taxes are especially complex, the free versions may not be available (or suitable) for you.
I can personally vouch for the efficiency of TurboTax. Right after I graduated from college, I was strapped for cash, and this was the perfect solution. I compiled my forms with ease, and the software walked me through the e-file process.
2. Paper or Online Forms
If you don't want to use software, you can opt for the more traditional method of filing paper forms, or using their online counterparts. Free File Fillable Forms provides online versions of the paper federal tax forms.
"If you filed last year's taxes with paper forms, the IRS will mail you forms this year," Freeman says. "The only cost is postage [when returning them]."
To order paper tax forms, call 1-800-829-3676 on Mondays through Fridays from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Perhaps the easiest way to file your returns — and to do so for free — is e-filing. You won't have a stack of papers to keep track of, and you won't have to make that dreaded trip to the post office one minute before it closes on April 15. (Although, if you live on the edge like me, you may still be clicking "send" as the clock winds down. Straight-up rebel status.)
You can also select direct deposit (so you can get your refund faster) or, if you owe (fingers crossed that you don't), pay your taxes online through the IRS website.
4. IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA) offers free tax help to those who earn less than $53,000 annually, people with disabilities, the elderly, and those who have limited English-speaking ability. IRS-certified volunteers help qualified taxpayers prepare their taxes and file online. Call 1-800-906-9887 for more information.
5. Tax Counseling for the Elderly Programs
Separate from VITA, Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) is another tax-prep option for folks age 60 and older.
"You can also visit an IRS volunteer at a self-assistance service site to get free tax preparation," Freeman advises. "Visit the IRS website to find a facilitated self-assistance site."
To locate a facility near you or schedule an appointment, call 1-888-227-7669.
Low to moderate income tax filers, particularly those age 60 and older, can use the nation's largest free, volunteer-run tax assistance and preparation service, the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide. Founded in 1968, the service assisted 2.6 million taxpayers last year alone. More than 35,000 trained volunteers are ready and waiting to help with your state and federal returns.
According to the IRS, more than 50% of Americans earned $60,000 or less, qualifying them for free tax-prep services. One of the most popular is MyFreeTaxes, an interactive resource that provides info on tax prep, valuable tax credits (like the Child Tax Credit), personal finance, and access to sites that will help you file for free.
Underwritten by Walmart in collaboration with Goodwill Industries, the National Disability Institute, and United Way Worldwide, MyFreeTaxes is the first free online platform that can be used to file federal and state taxes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia for households earning $60,000 or less.
"This online tool allows taxpayers to self-file for free using a simple step-by-step process that includes free telephone, email, and online chat support (offered in English and Spanish) from IRS certified tax specialist," says Tahira Christmon, a rep for Goodwill Industries. "If a filer is uncomfortable filing online alone, they can access tax coaches and in-person filing assistance at one of our affiliate sites."
You have to do a little legwork to get free tax preparation from inDinero, but it may be worth it if you don't want to fuss with the DIY method or government-sponsored programs.
"We've instituted a very successful customer referral program at inDinero.com," says Jamie Diamond, PR manager for the site. "We are an all-in-one accounting and tax software and service for startups and small businesses. If a customer successfully refers our solution to a new customer, the original customer gets a free month's service, so they could get their taxes done for free with enough referrals."
Do you have other ways to prepare taxes for free? Let me know in the comments below.
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