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Looking for Tax Help? Here are 5 Free Tax Filing Assistance Programs to Try
Updated on 02/27/2023
Depending on your financial and tax situation, tax season can be a stressful or exciting time. Unless you’re filing for a tax extension, you can typically submit your tax return anywhere between January and mid-April.
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However, filing a tax return can be challenging for some. Filing an income tax return is a complex process; if it wasn’t, we wouldn’t need tax accountants and other financial professionals to help us. Plus, many families struggle to pay high filing and tax preparation fees.
That’s where free tax filing assistance programs come in. These programs help you file and track your return free of charge. Each of these programs has its own requirements that must be met to receive aid, but if you need assistance, it might be worth looking into.
Continue reading to learn about five free tax filing assistance programs you can use to file your taxes for free.
Do I Need to File a Tax Return?
Before you get help with your federal income taxes, the first thing to determine is whether you need to file at all. Most workers in America need to file a federal income tax return every year. However, you may not need to file your federal tax return if you meet all of the following criteria:
- Your tax filing status is single
- You are under the age of 65
- You do not have circumstances that require you to file a tax return, such as unemployment
- You earned less than the standard deduction for a single taxpayer ($12,950 for the 2022 tax year)
Additionally, there are several states that do not require you to file state income taxes. These states are:
- New Hampshire
- South Dakota
Even if you are not required to file a federal income tax return, it may be a good idea to check to see if you would receive a refund anyway. It may be more beneficial to file a tax return if that is the case.
1. IRS Free File
IRS Free File is one of the simplest ways to file your federal income tax return for free. It’s easy to use and easy to qualify for the program. This program is available through the cooperation of the Free File Alliance, a non-profit organization, and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
IRS Free File connects you with free tax preparation software services through various participating companies, including major tax return brands like TaxSlayer and TaxAct. To qualify for IRS Free File, your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) cannot be more than $73,000.
Although this is a free tax filing assistance program, you may still need to pay a fee to file a state income tax return. As of 2023, there are 23 states that have similar free filing programs that are partnered with IRS Free File:
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
- Washington D.C.
2. Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) is a government assistance program that provides grants to community-based organizations nationwide to help qualifying individuals receive tax preparation services for free. This program’s aid is specifically targeted toward the following populations:
- Low- to moderate-income individuals
- Senior citizens
- Limited-English speakers
- Disabled persons
Income limits for free tax help can vary, but the limit is generally about $58,000 per year.
VITA may not be the right option if you have a complicated tax situation. Volunteers, not professional tax accountants, work in the community-based organizations that receive federal assistance. That means that you may want to look at alternative free tax filing assistance programs if you need to prepare an income tax return with additional paperwork.
3. Tax Counseling for the Elderly
As the name suggests, Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) is a federal grant program designed to aid senior citizens by offering free tax filing assistance programs. However, while the program is designed to assist seniors ages 60 and older, there aren’t strict guidelines on age.
Like VITA, the grant program works with community-based organizations to provide assistance and tax preparation is performed by volunteers. This service may not be ideal if your income tax return requires you to file complicated paperwork.
4. Tax-Free Tax Preparation Software for Low-Income Individuals and Families
If you have a low income and a simple return, you may qualify for free tax filing through many of the major tax software providers. It’s not uncommon for companies to provide free tax assistance, not just through IRS Free File, but also on their own platforms.
However, some tax prep software companies wait to provide the free services until the final weeks before the tax-filing deadline. On the other hand, some may only provide these services early in the tax season.
While these services include federal tax filing, not all of them include free state tax filing, so take the time to shop around. Some of the biggest brands that routinely include free tax filing packages include TurboTax and H&R Block.
5. Free Tax Filing Assistance Programs for Service Members and Veterans
Service members and veterans generally have several options for free tax filing assistance programs. In addition to the above tax filing opportunities, you may qualify for:
- MyFreeTaxes: MyFreeTaxes is an online and in-person tax preparation service for qualifying active-duty members, veterans, and their families. Taxpayers must have earned $60,000 or less in the previous tax season. However, qualified filers can receive free tax filing assistance for both federal and state tax returns.
- Free Tax Preparation Software: Military service members and veteran may qualify for free filing through major tax preparation brands that normally only provide free services to low-income individuals and families. These brands include H&R Block and TurboTax.
- Military OneSource: Military OneSource provides qualifying veterans and service members with free electronic tax filing assistance. With this program, filers can qualify for free filing for federal and up to three states.
TaxSlayer Military: Finally, TaxSlayer Military is available to all active duty military personnel. Unlike many other programs, qualifying taxpayers can use this service to file both their federal and state tax returns for free.