Free Tax Services: Do You Qualify?
By Eva Rosenberg, EA

Approximately 70 percent of taxpayers qualify for the various free filing services available in English and Spanish, according to Eric Smith, an IRS spokesman. Do you?

Sit down with a trained volunteer and get in-person assistance and some advice, or use a variety of online software services.

Live and in Person

Households with incomes below $49,000 qualify for VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) services. Seniors qualify for the TCE (Tax Counseling for the Elderly) program. You can’t believe how nice the people are at the VITA and TCE programs. They’ll prepare your tax return—and efile it for you. These services can be found in libraries, colleges, community centers, religious centers, and other convenient locations nationwide, in both urban and rural areas.

Call 1-800-906-9887 or scan this partial VITA site list.

AARP’s Tax-Aide is one of the largest TCE programs. Visit the AARP Tax-Aide website or call the IRS for a TCE location at 1-800-829-1040.

The armed forces have AFTC—Armed Forces Tax Council. Volunteers and experts know the special credits, deductions, and exclusions available to members of all branches of the armed forces and their families. They understand the state income tax exclusions, as well.

File Online for Free

There are three ways you can file online for free.

Free File Fillable Forms (FFFF): This IRS site contains an ever-expanding list of e-filable forms. Looking at the list of forms and when they become available to efile gives you an idea of when the IRS will be issuing them to the general public.

Free File Alliance (FFA) program: This service is limited to taxpayers with incomes under ,000. Companies offer free services with a variety of restrictions and conditions. Most offer free extensions and free services to the military. None of the providers are permitted to offer refund anticipation loans (RALs). Try it here.

Free services from online tax software companies: All of the biggies offer free IRS tax preparation. You will have to pay for the state(s). Start your tax return at the free level and work your way up. Import last year’s tax return into the system. Most services shown include free itemized tax returns (Schedule A).

CompleteTax’sbasic tax-preparation service is free. Common forms and sources of income for all filing statuses are included. To help people facing financial misfortune, CompleteTax offers free returns, regardless of complexity, if:

  • You are unemployed,
  • You have a balance due, or
  • You switch from TurboTax, TaxACT, or H&R Block.

At H&R Block online, the common forms are supported, including Form 9465, for installment agreements. Worry-free Audit Support® is included, at no charge, with the free version. H&R Block will not only help you answer tax agency correspondence, but they’re also prepared to represent you at audit.

TaxACT offers all e-file forms, including forms relating to taxpayers in Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. They have a FAFSA tool for educational financial aid applications. They support multistate tax returns (not free).

TurboTax’s free service includes an array of forms, including the Treasury report of foreign bank accounts (FBAR). Business and rental schedules are not included. Multistate tax returns are supported (not free).

One Final Tip

Be sure to print out a hard copy of your tax return—and save a PDF copy, just to be safe.

Read More about Filing Your 2011 Taxes:

Eva Rosenberg, EA is the publisher of TaxMama.com, where your tax questions are answered. Eva is the author of several books and ebooks, including Small Business Taxes Made Easy. Eva teaches a tax pro course at IRSExams.com.