Whether you are filing a simple tax return, trying to amend previous years’ returns, or owe money to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), you may qualify for free tax advice. From community-based services to free software, there are many ways to avoid doing your taxes on your own. Here are six sources that will give you tax advice free.
- There are a variety of sources of free tax help available to filers, mostly via the IRS.
- These include legal clinics, community-based help, phone lines, IRS offices, and fee versions of popular online software.
- Free online software is generally only for the most basic of tax returns; if your’s has complications, you will likely have to purchase software.
1. Free or Inexpensive Legal Clinics
Have you seen a bunch of commercials lately that are about settling past tax debt for a fraction of what you owe, yet you still can’t afford the fees? Low Income Taxpayer Clinics could help. Low Income Taxpayer Clinic services are free or low cost based on income eligibility and can help taxpayers in disputes with the IRS. It’s also likely to be more reliable than many tax settlement firms.
Low Income Taxpayer Clinics are offered by qualifying nonprofit organizations and academic institutions. If you have old tax debt and can’t afford an attorney to negotiate with the IRS to reduce the amount you owe, visit the IRS website to locate a Low Income Taxpayer Clinic. Contact the eligible clinic in your area to ask about maximum income levels to qualify for assistance, wait times to get an appointment, what fees are charged, and what kind of cases are handled. Many clinics have transitioned to working remotely in response to the crisis and lockdown.
2. IRS Tax Offices
If you have tax issues that can’t be resolved online or over the phone, you can contact your IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center to set up an appointment. You can find the number for your local office on the IRS website.
3. Community-Based Free Tax Preparation
The IRS trains volunteers to help you file your tax returns. While there is an income limit for most individual taxpayers for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, current members of the Armed Forces can use it for free regardless of income. To find a location, check the IRS website’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance page or call 800-906-9887.
Due to the crisis and lockdowns that started in 2020, many VITA sites are either not open or operating at a reduced capacity.
4. IRS Help Lines
The IRS has a phone line that anyone, regardless of income level, can call with tax questions: 800-829-1040. You could call in a dozen or more times with different questions, but you would probably get transferred to several different representatives if you did. The IRS has specialists for different types of questions.
For example, let’s say you just graduated from college and wonder which education tax credits or deductions you qualify to claim on your taxes. The IRS operator would transfer you to a person who specializes in this issue. You can also order forms or have previous year’s W-2s sent to you. This service is useful if you didn’t file a past tax return or you want to amend an older return and misplaced your W-2s.
5. Taxpayer Advocate Service Office
The IRS’s Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) is for when you have an issue that's larger than filing a return. TAS helps businesses and individuals, regardless of income level, who are having long-term problems with a tax issue, such as trying to resolve a tax question from the previous year.
The income limit for being allowed to use the IRS’s free software, Free File.
6. Free Tax Software
No matter what your income level, a number of companies offer free, basic tax software, including:
- H&R Block
- Credit Karma Tax
There’s also the IRS’s own free tax software, Free File. To be eligible to use it, however, whether you're single or married, you can’t have an adjusted gross income (AGI) greater than $72,000.
What can you expect from free tax software? The program will calculate your taxes, deductions, and credits and electronically file your taxes. State tax filing may not be available on a free version. You should always read the description of the program to make sure it handles more complicated tasks if you need them, such as business expenses for those who are self-employed. If the free versions don’t include the features you need, you should compare prices over the internet for a product that does.
The Bottom Line
You don’t have to file your taxes by yourself if you don’t make enough to hire an accountant or pay for software. You may be able to get free help from the IRS tax offices and phone line, volunteer tax preparation centers, and free versions of popular tax preparation programs.