If you make less than $58k, or you are 60 and older, or you are serving in the military, you may qualify to have your 2010 taxes prepared and filed for free. April 18th, 2011 is the tax deadline this year because of a holiday occurring on April 15th. Many filers will not wait until that time, many of whom are eagerly awaiting a tax refund from the IRS. Others may put off filing their taxes until the last minute due to owing a tax liability to Uncle Sam. Then there are still others, who lack the money upfront to pay a professional to prepare their tax return. The IRS recognizes that millions of taxpayers are facing financial hardships, some to the degree of which paying an accountant or another tax preparer out-of-pocket are impossible or difficult. As a result, there are several options available for low to middle-income families to ensure they have access to free tax preparation to file their taxes promptly. Anyone in need of assistance filing their tax return should consider the following tips to find and utilize free tax preparation services.
Free Tax Preparation Help If You Make Less than $49,000
If you earn less than $49,000 a year and you cannot prepare your tax return, then you may want to look at the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA). Many organizations will sponsor and train volunteers to provide free tax return preparation and filing (many locations offer free electronic filing) across the country. The sites can be anywhere from a mall to a school library. To find out the nearest VITA location, call 1-800-906-9887. You can find lists online, but they do not contain all sites generally, so you are better off calling. You also may qualify for Free File (discussed below).
- Free Tax Preparation Help and Guidance If You Are 60 or Over
The TCE program or Tax Counseling for the Elderly provides free assistance to taxpayers who are 60 years or older. Volunteers provide necessary tax counseling and preparation services. They are trained and mainly provided by non-profit organizations who have received grants from the Internal Revenue Service. AARP assists under “Tax-Aide,” which falls under the TCE Program. Again, they focus on low to moderate income individuals, with “special attention to those 60 and older.” To find out more about Tax Counseling for the Elderly, call 1-800-829-1040. If you are solely interested in AARP’s Tax-Aide Program, call 1-888-227-7669 or find a location online. What is nice is they typically help with IRS and State tax returns (if applicable).
- Free Tax Help for the Military Through VITA
Military personnel can receive free tax help through the Volunteer Assistance Tax Program or VITA. The Armed Forces Tax Council (AFTC) is made up of coordinators from the Coast Guard, Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps. They oversee the tax programs to make sure they correctly and efficiently provide tax services to military members and their families.
- Use Free File If You Make Less Than $58,000 a Year (AGI)
If you have an Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) less than $58,000 (gross income minus adjustments like personal exemptions and itemized deductions), you may qualify for Free File. Free File is an “electronic filing program for eligible taxpayers,” provided by the Free File Alliance which is a partnership between tax software companies and the IRS. Right now, if you are married and your combined income is above $58,000 you still would not qualify (I know, it isn’t fair to penalize married couples). Realize that some tax software providers impose their restrictions, so be careful before you start the process with any one provider. Here are some requirements to qualify by some of the major software providers:
- eSmartTax (powered by CompleteTax) – Free Federal tax return filing if you had an AGI (Adjusted Gross Income) of $58k or less in 2010, and you are aged 51 or younger.
- TurboTax.com Freedom Edition – Free Federal tax preparation and efile if your AGI is $31,000 or less, or you qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit or if you are an active member of the military then you cannot make more than $58k (AGI). This offer is valid in all states.
- TaxAct – If your AGI is less than $58,000 and you are between 19 and 55 you will qualify for free Federal online tax preparation and efile (valid in all states).
- TaxSlayer.com – Free Federal tax preparation and efile if your AGI is less than $58,000 for 2010 AND you are 25 or younger, or you are 65 or older. If your AGI is $10,000 or less, or you qualify for the EITC, it is free regardless of age (valid in all states).
- H&R Block – If you make $58k or less (AGI again), and you are 51 or younger, you will qualify for free Federal tax preparation and e-file.