How to Find Tax Help for Free

Finding free tax advice has grown more challenging during the pandemic, but it’s still possible to find help preparing your taxes or answering tax questions at no charge.

Here are 12 resources for free tax help, from federal programs to community efforts:

— Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.

— Tax Counseling for the Elderly program.

— The Internal Revenue Service helpline.

— IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers.

— Your state’s tax office.

— Taxpayer Advocate Service.

— AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program.

— MilTax program.

— Online tax-filing websites.

— Your local library or community center.

— Family or friends.

— Low Income Taxpayer Clinic.

For more information on each free tax-filing resource, read on.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program

The VITA program is organized by the Internal Revenue Service, although the people who staff it are volunteers who receive specialized training to provide basic income-tax preparation help.

VITA offers free help to people who make $57,000 or less as well as people with disabilities, the elderly and limited English-speaking taxpayers who need assistance in preparing their own tax returns.

Unfortunately, VITA programs haven’t been as easy to find during the pandemic, according to Beth Logan, an enrolled agent and owner of Kozlog Tax Advisers in Chelmsford, Massachusetts.

“COVID reduced VITA locations in 2020 but many came back in 2021,” Logan says.

The jury is still out about 2022. “Each location will decide on hours of operation, if any, based on safety and staffing,” Logan says.

The Tax Counseling for the Elderly Program

This is another IRS program. To be eligible for free tax help, you need to be age 60 or older. Typically, you can find a TCE program (as well as a VITA program) offered through nonprofit organizations, local colleges or universities, community centers or libraries. You can find locations of TCEs and VITAs by visiting irs.treasury.gov/freetaxprep.

What’s more, if you’re eligible to use a TCE, you can find help beyond taxes.

“In addition to offering free tax prep help, TCE also answers questions about pensions, disability, Social Security, 401(k)s and other retirement-related issues specific to seniors,” says Charles Corsello, an enrolled agent and co-founder of TaxCure.com, which is based in Trumbull, Connecticut.

Corsello suggests checking out this IRS page to find a TCE or VITA in your area. He echoes Logan’s warning that because of COVID and a lack of volunteers, many TCE and VITA programs that offer free tax help may not be available. So contact the organization before just dropping by. Corsello also recommends checking out the IRS’s TCE/VITA search tool: Get Free Tax Prep Help.

The Internal Revenue Service Helpline

This option is so simple, it’s easy to forget. You can call the IRS helpline at 800-829-1040 and ask questions about filing your taxes. You may have to wait on hold before you can reach someone, but the IRS helpline exists to answer any questions you have about preparing your tax return.

IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers

If you can’t get certain questions resolved over the phone, you may want to consider working with an IRS taxpayer assistance center.

Taxpayers can set up an appointment at a local IRS office to get help with tax questions that can’t be resolved over the phone. Find the closest location to you with this IRS local office locator.

The agency asks that you wear a mask if you’re in a highly transmissible area or aren’t fully vaccinated.

You’ll need to bring all of your W-2s and 1099 forms, information that can be used for deductions and credits, and proof of identification. At your appointment, you can get assistance preparing a variety of forms, including Form 1099-G (for unemployment benefits) or Form 1099-R (for IRA distributions). However, you may not be able to receive assistance if you have a complicated tax situation and you need help completing Form 8606 (for a nondeductible IRA) or certain sections of Form 8962 (for premium tax credits). If that’s your situation, you may need to hire a tax professional.

[Read: How to Find the Best Tax Professional.]

Your State’s Tax Office

You don’t necessarily have to go to the IRS for your tax problems. Corsello points out that you could check with your state’s tax office — especially if you have tax questions related to your particular state.

“Many states offer assistance through email or phone,” he says. “For example, in Connecticut, the Department of Revenue will answer questions via email or phone and usually is pretty responsive with hold times that are not too long.”

Taxpayer Advocate Service

If you encounter a tax issue that you can’t resolve on your own or through the regular IRS channels, you may want to check out the Taxpayer Advocate Service, an independent organization within the IRS. The TAS may be a resource for those facing financial hardship due to a tax situation, or a tax levy or lien. You can use the TAS qualifier tool to find out if it can help with your tax issue. There are also TAS offices in every state as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

AARP Foundation Tax-Aide Program

The AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program has been around for over 50 years and offers free tax-preparation help until the filing deadline. Technically AARP offers free help to any taxpayer, but its focus is to assist people who are 50 or older and have low to moderate income.

Find an AARP Foundation Tax-Aide location by calling 888-687-2277 or visit its website.

MilTax Program

If you’re currently in the military, or you are a spouse or dependent child of someone who is in the military or has served in the military, you may be able to utilize the MilTax filing service, which offers around-the-clock help over the phone. The Military OneSource website can give you more information, and you can schedule appointments for the MilTax program at a VITA office.

Online Tax-Filing Websites

These days there are a lot of online tax-preparation websites that help by letting you file your taxes for free, including TaxAct, TaxSlayer, H&R Block and TurboTax.

The IRS offers Free File if your adjusted gross income is less than $72,000. If you earn more, you will be directed to use Free File Fillable Forms, a free tool that’s available on any device that helps you enter your tax information and e-file your federal tax return.

Your Local Library or Community Center

As tax season gets into full swing, look for local resources. “Many libraries offer resources to help taxpayers prepare their returns and answer questions,” Corsello says.

Even if your library doesn’t have those resources, “local libraries usually have forms and instructions in paper form, which can help low-income people,” Logan says.

Community centers often hold tax-preparation workshops or seminars and volunteers may be available to help prepare taxes or answer questions.

[Read: How to Get the Biggest Tax Refund This Year.]

Friends or Family

Consider who among your friends and family might be able to help you file your taxes or answer any questions. Maybe you have an accountant or former accountant within your circle. You can also post in neighborhood groups to see if anyone might lend a hand.

Low Income Taxpayer Clinic

Low Income Tax Clinics, or LITCs, may be able to offer free help after you file taxes.

“Low Income Tax Clinics are sprinkled throughout the U.S. for representation tax issues,” Logan says. “Those are not tax-preparation issues, but issues that arise after filing, usually when the taxpayer gets a letter from the IRS. There is some federal funding for these. They are often run by universities with tax law programs, and the law students do much of the work.”

Some LITCs also deal with state taxes, too, Logan says, but adds that too often, an LITC will only work with a taxpayer on a federal level. In that case, she says, “The taxpayer is often stuck with state tax issues that they can’t resolve.”

More from U.S. News

How to Get the Biggest Tax Refund in 2022

A Guide to the Home Office Tax Deduction

How to Find the Best Tax Professional

How to Find Tax Help for Free originally appeared on usnews.com

Update 01/12/22: This story was previously published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

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