Even if you’re expecting a tax refund, this time of year can be, well, taxing on your wallet when it comes to paying for tax preparation services. In fact, according to a National Society of Accountants (NSA) survey, hiring a tax return preparer cost an average of $246 for an itemized Form 1040 with Schedule A and a state tax return in 2012. That can be a lot of money for someone on a fixed income.
The good news is that, if you qualify, you can get free help filing your return and not spend a dime.
Here are some programs to investigate:
The IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offers free tax help for those who make $51,000 a year or less and need assistance filing their return. Simply use the handy VITA Locator Tool or call 1-800-906-9887 to find the site closest to you. Often, this program is facilitated through local colleges or through nonprofit organizations. For example, the United Way of Palm Beach County, Florida, helped file 9,500 returns in 2012 as part of VITA.
The Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) Program is geared toward those over 60 who have questions or need help filing their returns. Volunteers, usually through nonprofit groups, offer their time via a grant from the IRS. To locate the nearest TCE site, use the AARP Site Locator Tool or call 888-227-7669.
Look for local help. If you live in New York City, for example, you could have your tax return prepared via the Food Bank’s Tax Assistance Program. Eligibility requirements include earning $50,000 or less with dependents or $18,000 or less without dependents. More than 39,000 people participated in the program last year. In Philadelphia, the Campaign for Working Families operates several free tax sites across the city, where people can just walk in and be assisted on a first-come, first-served basis.
Coming soon: We’ll tell you how to file your taxes free online.
Do you know of any free tax preparation assistance in your area? Please share the information in the comments below.
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