Free Tax Prep Help

Feb 14, 2012 by

If you aim to prepare your own taxes, before you buy software to help with the job, learn whether you may qualify to use free online tax preparation software. And you may also qualify for free help in preparing your tax return.

Free File

If your 2011 Adjusted Gross Income is less than $57,000, you don’t have to spend a dime to prepare and file your federal income tax return. Free File is a federal income tax preparation and electronic filing program developed through a partnership between the IRS and the Free File Alliance, a group of private sector tax software companies. If you’re eligible for Free File, you can do your federal income tax return using commercial online software provided by the Free File Alliance companies. You don’t have to download any software, but you do need a computer and Internet access. When your return is done, you can file for free through the IRS’s e-file service. Depending on where you live, you may also be able to file your state return using Free File. To learn more: Free File, or here’s a short IRS video.


Free File provides free tools for doing your taxes, but you still have to understand the forms and do the work yourself. But there’s also free help available in actually preparing tax forms through the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) Programs.

The VITA Program offers free tax help to people who make $50,000 or less and need assistance in preparing their own tax returns. IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic income tax return preparation to qualified individuals in local communities. The volunteers can tell taxpayers about special tax credits for which they may qualify such as Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, and Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled. VITA sites are often located at community and neighborhood centers, libraries, schools, shopping malls, and other convenient locations. Most locations also offer free electronic filing.

The TCE Program offers free tax help for all with priority assistance to people who are 60 years of age and older, specializing in questions about pensions and retirement issues unique to seniors. IRS-certified volunteers who provide tax counseling are often retired individuals associated with non-profit organizations that receive grants from the IRS.

To learn more: Free Tax Return Preparation Help

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