Panicked about preparing your taxes? You’re not alone! Tax season is a source of stress for many; a fact that’s well documented in news articles, opinion pieces, and even by the IRS itself.
Well, here’s some good news. You’re not in this alone! There are plenty of free tools and support to help you file your taxes – you just have to know where to look. Unsure where to start? Read on!
Free Tax Software
The availability of tax software has made a huge difference in reducing the stress of filing taxes. Tax software takes you through the filing process step by step, so instead of shuffling through forms and figuring out which lines to calculate, you can answer questions and input numbers in a more manageable format. However, tax software can be pricy, costing anywhere from $25 to $200.
Luckily, it’s not difficult to take advantage of free tax software. The IRS now offers IRS Free File, which lets you file your federal tax return using its guided tax preparation tool. Anyone with an adjusted gross income under $73,000 can use the tool; and if your income is above this threshold, you can still take advantage of free fillable electronic forms to make the filing process a little simpler. FreeTaxUSA is another popular option, covering all major tax situations for free.
In addition, many of the big-name tax software brands like TurboTax and H&R Block offer free versions of their online filing services – but be aware that these free editions may not cover all forms and situations, or they may offer free filing to the government, but require payment for the tax preparation process itself.
Professional Tax Support
If you’re uncomfortable filing taxes on your own and want support from a tax professional, there are some free or discounted options available. The IRS’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offers free tax help, including on-site appointments in your local area with IRS-certified tax counsellors. The VITA program is available for people making $58,000 or less, people with disabilities, or those who speak limited English.
A similar program from the IRS is the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program, which supports people aged 60 and up to speak with a tax professional about filing needs, for free. Again, the TCE program is staffed by certified professionals; and in addition to covering basic tax needs, they can also answer more specialized tax questions relating to pension and retirement.
Most states also offer their own non-profit tax resources for residents who need additional help with filing state or federal taxes. In Massachusetts for example, the Boston Tax Help Coalition provides a variety of free resources, including virtual tax preparation, educational materials about various tax credits and procedures, and assistance from certified VITA volunteers.
Tax Service Discounts
Depending on where you work and how you shop, you may be able to find additional discounts on tax services or software. For example, some credit cards have a tax filing discount for cardholders, or may offer additional cash-back on spending that goes toward tax preparation software. It’s worth checking in with your employer – or if you’re a student, your institution – about any free or discounted tax support options available.
Also, if you bank with a credit union rather than a traditional bank, you can take advantage of savings on tax preparation software. More information about tax software discounts is available online, or check in with your credit union to see what tax resources you might be able to utilize.