Free Tax Preparation for Low-income Families

by Gail Sessoms

Government agencies, community organizations and tax businesses partner to provide free tax preparation resources to low-income families. Free tax preparation gives qualified filers access to high-quality tax preparation services that can reduce errors and help families take advantage of tax credits and deductions. The free services, some of which include state tax preparation, are available to individuals, married couples, senior citizens, and members of the military and their families.

IRS Free File

The IRS offers its Free File service to individuals whose annual income is less than $60,000. Qualified taxpayers complete their tax returns online using **tax preparation software that includes instructions and suggestions**. The IRS contracts with several companies to provide the online software and electronically file the returns. The service also completes your state return. For some states, you pay a fee for the state return. Washington, D.C, and 20 states use their own version of Free File. Choose direct deposit or a mailed check for your refund or print a payment voucher if you owe taxes. Access the company links on the IRS website to use the free tax preparation service for the current tax year.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance

The IRS trains and certifies tax preparation volunteers for its Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, or VITA, program, which provides free tax preparation services and electronic filing. The VITA program generally services low-income people, senior citizens, disabled people and taxpayers with limited English language skills. The VITA volunteers, through the Tax Counseling for the Elderly, or TCE, program, also provide **free counseling on pensions and retirement**. Visit the IRS website to search for VITA and TCE locations in your community.

AARP Tax Aide

The AARP Foundation operates the Tax Aide program in partnership with the IRS to offer free tax preparation. Trained AARP volunteers assist low- to moderate-income filers, especially those over 60. Tax Aide volunteers ensure that filers save money by taking deductions and credits for which they are eligible. Tax Aide is offered throughout the country. Visit the AARP Foundation website to find a location near you.

Other Community Resources

Many community organizations offer tax preparation services to low-income families and individuals during tax season. The United Way, through its Money in Your Pocket, campaign, partners with nonprofits to **help low-income families take advantage tax credits**. Contact the United Way in your community and ask about its current tax preparation projects and free tax help from other organizations. Many public libraries serve as free tax preparation sites and have programs like VITA, or have volunteers on site to assist patrons with online filing resources. Check with community centers, senior centers and military bases for free tax help programs.

About the Author

Gail Sessoms, a grant writer and nonprofit consultant, writes about nonprofit, small business and personal finance issues. She volunteers as a court-appointed child advocate, has a background in social services and writes about issues important to families. Sessoms holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in liberal studies.

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