Do You Qualify for Free Tax Preparation and Filing?

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Updated on Friday, February 19, 2016

Tax return check

Between buying the tax preparation software and paying the e-filing fee, filing your tax return can be costly. In-person preparation services such as H&R Block or Liberty Tax can be even more expensive, charging $40 to $100 for the simplest of returns. However, there are options for free tax preparation and filing services available to many filers in the U.S.

Check below to see if you qualify for any of the free options.

Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) of $62,000 or Less – The Free File Program

The IRS and private tax software companies partner to offer free tax preparation to about 70 percent of America’s taxpayers. The Free File program has 13 software options to choose from, including free options from big names like TurboTax and H&R Block.

To qualify for Free File, you must at minimum have an adjusted gross income (AGI) of $62,000 or less. Some of the software providers place stricter restrictions on users, such as lower AGI requirements or age restrictions. State preparation and filing may still require payment depending on where you live and which software you use.

AGI of $62,000 or Less – United Way’s MyFreeTaxes 

United Way offers online free tax preparation and filing using H&R Block’s software to individuals and families that made $62,000 or less. MyFreeTaxes includes a state return as well.

AGI of $54,00 or Less, Disabled or Limited English – VITA 

The IRS-sponsored Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program is open to those who make less than $54,000, are disabled, elderly or have limited or no proficiency in English. The program offers free in-person tax preparation and filing services by IRS-trained volunteers from the local community.

You can search for a VITA center location on the IRS’s site. They are often conveniently located in schools, libraries or malls.

The Elderly – TCE

The IRS also sponsors the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program. The program assists those that are 60 years or older with low to moderate income. The trained volunteers, often retirees, are knowledgeable on questions that senior filers may have about retirement and pensions. The AARP’s Foundation Tax-Aide program works with the TCE program to run many of the tax preparation centers. Similar to TCE, the AARP’s program is geared towards 50-plus filers who can’t afford tax prep service.

The IRS’s website has a list of documents you should bring to a VITA or TCE tax preparation session.

Learn more about tax filing for seniors here.

Proactive Filers – TurboTax Absolute Free 

TurboTax offers an Absolute Zero edition that’s free for filers through approximately March 18th. To qualify, you must file a 1040EZ or 1040A and not have rental, business or contractor income. You also must take the standard deduction.

Military Ties – FreeFile, VITA or Military OneSource

Active-duty military members can have fewer restrictions to use software from Free File providers, but there is still, at least, the $62,000 or less AGI requirement. Outside the Free File program, some tax preparation software companies also offer discounted or free versions of their software to military members outside.

Examples include TurboTax and TaxSlayer.

Military members may be able to find VITA centers on military bases, and the volunteers on staff are specially trained to work with military members’ taxes.

Another free option is to use Military OneSource, which provides free state and federal tax preparation and filing services to active-duty military members and their family. It’s also open to members of the National Guard and the reserve, those who were honorably discharged or retired in the past 180 days and eligible survivors of deceased active-duty and National Guard members. See the website for a full list of eligibility requirements.

Low- to Moderate-Income Earners – Local Organizations  

In addition to the resources listed above, there may be state or regional organizations the offer free tax preparation and filing. For example, the Piton Foundation provides help to families in Colorado that earned less than $53,000 in 2015. The New York City Food Bank has over 15 tax preparation sites throughout the city where New Yorkers can receive free assistance. It’s available to those who earned $54,000 or less and have dependents, or $30,000 or less without dependents.

Simple Taxes on Less than $100,000

If you earned less than $100,000, have no dependents, no contractor or freelance income, are younger than 65 and don’t plan to itemize your taxes — then you may be eligible to file a 1040EZ. This could also mean filing for free with both state and federal taxes. TaxAct and TurboTax both offer the option to file for free with a 1040EZ.

Want the full list based for each state? Check out Free Tax Filing for Every State Online.