A:

Most of us will shy away from doing our own tax returns, especially if it involves reporting capital gains or losses, education expenses or deducting interest paid on mortgages, and we prefer to have it done by tax experts.

If you fall into this tax-return category, but you can't afford to get your taxes done by an expert, see these IRS aids:

  • The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, under which free tax assistance is provided to individuals who are unable to afford professional services. VITA sites are generally located at community and neighborhood centers, libraries, schools, shopping malls and other convenient locations, many of which also offer free electronic filing.
  • Tax counseling for the elderly, which provides free tax help to people age 60 and older.

Those brave enough to tackle the tax task, regardless of the level of complexity, can forge ahead and find out what they need to file their own returns. If you are one those individuals who like the challenge of foraging through all the tax laws and caveats, you may find these resources provided by the IRS helpful. These include the following:

  • Tax education and assistance programs, where the IRS provides free assistance with preparing tax returns. Assistance is provided by volunteers who are trained by individuals or businesses in partnership with the IRS.
  • Small business tax workshops, where small business owners can learn more about their tax responsibilities.
  • Free IRS publications and tax forms by calling 1-800-TAX-FORM (1-800-829-3676)
  • Braille Tax Material, which may be ordered at no charge by calling the IRS at 1-800-TAX-FORM (1-800-829-3676). The Braille print files are in .brf format and can be sent directly to an embosser for high-quality Braille output.

To learn more about these programs, call the IRS at 1-800- 829-1040. And unless you are an expert tax preparer yourself, it may be wise to have the tax return you prepared reviewed by an expert tax preparer.

To read more frequently asked tax questions, see How do I avoid paying excess taxes on securities I have sold?, How can I make sure I'm ready to file my taxes? and Which is better for tax deductions, itemization or a standard deduction?

Question answered by Denise Appleby, CISP, CRC, CRPS, CRSP, APA

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