Where to get free tax help

Tax prep doesn’t come cheap, but you can get free tax prep if you know where to look. The IRS Free File program is a great option for many, but it’s not the only way to get free tax returns.

Here are five ways to file your taxes for free.

1. IRS-free file

Who is Eligible for IRS Free File?

IRS Free File is a partnership between the IRS and a nonprofit organization called the Free File Alliance. IRS Free File provides access to free tax prep software from several tax prep companies including big brands. You must have an adjusted gross income of $73,000 or less to qualify for the IRS Free File (the IRS estimates that 70% of all taxpayers are eligible). IRS Free File providers include providers such as TaxAct and TaxSlayer.

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what you get

  • Provide some basic information about yourself and where you live, and IRS Free File will match you with free tax prep software. However, depending on the provider, you may be charged fees for your government return.
  • According to the IRS, more than 20 states also have state Free File programs modeled after the federal program. This also means free tax preparation for your tax return. These states are: Arkansas, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia, along with the District of Columbia.
  • Even if your income exceeds the limit, IRS Free File gives everyone access to fillable electronic versions of IRS forms (but not many guides).

where to get it

IRS.gov/freefile or via the IRS2Go app. You can also visit the websites of the major tax software vendors and look for a link to their IRS Free File products.

2. Free tax preparation software directly from the provider

What is it

Many major tax software providers offer free tax preparation software for people with really simple tax situations. These packages may differ from what is available through IRS Free File.

what you get

  • Typically (but not always) these packages work for people who only have income from a job and don’t provide any information on their tax returns.
  • State tax returns are also usually included in these free packages, although some software providers tend to charge for this as the tax return deadline approaches.

where to get it

Free online tax software is available from some of the biggest providers such as TurboTax and H&R Block.

3. Voluntary Income Tax Assistance (VITA)

What is it

A federal grant program that helps community organizations provide free tax prep to low- and middle-income people, the disabled, the elderly, and those with limited English speaking skills. In general, the income limit to qualify for free tax assistance is $58,000.

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what you get

  • Free tax preparation by local, IRS-certified volunteers.
  • This may not work for you if your tax situation is complicated. For example, volunteers will not prepare Schedule Cs with losses (sorry, freelancers), complicated Schedule Ds (sorry, investors), or forms related to non-deductible IRA contributions or employee status determinations (i.e., whether you’re technically an employee or a self-employed contractor ). where to get it

The IRS website lists VITA locations across the country.

4. Tax Advice for the Elderly (TCE)

What is it

A federal grant program that helps community organizations make free tax preparations. Although the program was set up to provide free tax assistance to people over the age of 60 and still prioritizes this demographic, there really is no minimum age. Trained volunteers do the tax preparation.

what you get

Similar to VITA, community organizations and nonprofits use grant funds to provide free tax preparation. Most TCE sites are operated by the AARP Foundation’s Tax Aide program.

where to get it

The IRS website lists TCE sites.

5.MilTax

What is it

A Department of Defense program that provides free H&R Block tax software, financial and legal resources, and other assistance to service members and their families.

what you get

In addition to free tax software, trained MilTax advisors can provide free tax assistance over the phone and via live chat. MilTax participates in the VITA program, which means you can also get personal free tax help locally or nearby.

where to get it

Go to Militaryonesource.mil to get the software, find helpline numbers and hours of operation, and see if a facility has a VITA location nearby.

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