Whether you are filing a simple tax return, trying to amend previous years' returns or owe money to the IRS, you may qualify for free tax help. From community-based services to free software, there are many ways to avoid doing your taxes on your own. In the following article, we look at six sources that will help you with your taxes – for free.
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? The Low Income Taxpayer Clinic Program could help. Low Income Taxpayer Clinics 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 you area to ask about maximum income levels to qualify for assistance, waiting time to get an appointment, what fees are charged, and what kind of cases are handled.
2. IRS Tax Offices
If you have a 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. To find the number for your local office, follow this link for the IRS local contact page.
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 this programs, volunteers help current members of the Armed Forces for free. To find a location, check the IRS website's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance page or call 800-906-9887.
4. IRS Help Lines
The IRS has a phone line where 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 is for when you have a larger issue than filing a return. This service 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.
6. Free Tax Software
What can be expected 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 that 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. (For related reading, see "Top Software to Prepare Taxes for Free")