Need personalized help preparing your taxes, but can't afford to pay top-dollar for assistance from an accountant?
Did you know that you may be able to get professional tax help without paying a cent? There are several places that offer free tax preparation for certain taxpayers.
In many cases, you'll need to meet certain eligibility requirements to qualify for free tax help. For example, your annual income may need to be below a certain level. Or you may need to be someone who doesn't own a business or earn side hustle income.
But since every organization is free to set its own eligibility criteria, some may be more open to handling complicated tax situations than others. Here's what you need to know if you're on the hunt for free tax prep.
Related: Check out our list of the best tax prep software here.
Best Places To Find Free Tax Preparation
Each of the organizations below offer free tax help for qualifying taxpayers. Keep reading to learn more about what they offer and who they work with.
AARP may be branded for retired people, but it’s Tax-Aide program offers free tax prep help to anyone who needs it. However, AARP does not offer help if you have rental income, self-employment losses above $25,000 or if you have employees (among other non-supported situations).
The Tax-Aide volunteers typically work with straightforward tax-filing situations. You can find Tax-Aide locations through the AARP’s locator tool.
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) is an organization that helps lower income earners prepare their tax returns. In particular VITA serves:
- People who generally make $56,000 or less
- Persons with disabilities
- Limited English-speaking taxpayers
Qualifying people can visit tax prep sites to have their questions answered and to receive tax prep help. Many sites will have non-English language options for those who have a different primary language.
VITA sites often have well qualified tax preparers who are trying to do good in their community. However, you may have to wait for more skilled volunteers if you have a complicated tax filing situation.
You can find VITA locations near you using the IRS tax help locator tool.
Tax Counseling For The Elderly
Tax Counseling for the Elderly offers free tax preparation help for taxpayers age 60 and older. TCE specializes in helping retired people answer questions about pensions and other retirement related income questions. Again, you can find TCE locations near you using the IRS tax help locator tool.
MilTax is a tax preparation software product geared towards military income situations. The software is sponsored by the Department of Defense and is free to all active duty military members, veterans, military academy cadets, reservists, and their immediate family members.
In addition to free software, MilTax has tax consultants who can answer tax-related questions about military and non-military tax situations. This is an excellent go-to software for military members and their families.
Local Tax Prep Organizations
Even if you don’t qualify for one of the national tax prep programs, you may still be able to find free tax prep locally.
A quick online search of my city revealed more than a dozen free options for small business owners, low wage earners, and others who may not have the income to pay for personalized tax prep help. Here are a few places to look for free tax prep help.
- Local libraries: Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, some libraries are hosting tax prep clinics. During these clinics licensed enrolled agents help library patrons to prepare tax returns and maximize their refunds. While these clinics may serve small business owners or side hustlers, most advertise to taxpayers with simple income situations such as W-2 jobs and Social Security income.
- Universities: Students studying to become CPAs may become enrolled agents during their education training. Universities may use tax prep forums to help students increase their skills as they help community members. Most of these students will have a professor overseeing them. If you’re already on campus, you can visit the business buildings to look for fliers about these programs.
- Dedicated programs: Believe it or not, there are people who are passionate about tax preparation. Current and former public accountants who are also enrolled agents may have programs to prepare your taxes. Unlike some of the national organizations, local programs may provide free tax prep services for small business owners and self-employed people.
Related: How To Find A Tax Preparer Near Me
Prefer To DIY Your Taxes? Free Tax Software Is Available
f you earned W-2 wages and made less than $66,000 last year, you’re eligible for Free Filing with the IRS. Several of the best tax software packages promote free filing software for people with simple returns.
However, free or low-cost software is often available for people with more complex returns or who earn higher incomes as well. Be sure to check out this year’s reviews to see which tax filing software is truly free for all filers (even those with state income tax returns).
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him on the About Page, or on his personal site RobertFarrington.com.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared towards anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
He has been quoted in major publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox, ABC, NBC, and more. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.