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How to Get Free Help With Your Tax Return

By Lisa Leslie, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent at UF-IFAS Hillsborough County
Reviewed by Martie Gillen, PhD, Department of Family, Youth, and Community Sciences, University of Florida

It’s tax filing time, and of course, we’re hearing lots of talk about tax refunds, write-offs, and finishing those returns.  Misconceptions and confusion also often spread around the time of year.  One common but mistaken belief is that the average person needs to pay money to get his or her taxes done.  Depending on your income, however, you may be eligible to have your taxes prepared for you for free! Even if you don’t qualify for these services, free forms and some types of free online assistance are available to everyone.

Here are some of your many options:

  • Free file yourself, using brand name software. The IRS has partnered with commercial tax software companies to provide free access to their software. If your income was $58,000 or less in 2013, you can use Free File software. To access the software and find out more, go to Free File.
  • Go to a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site and have an IRS-certified volunteer complete the return for you. This service is available to people with incomes of $52,000 or less in 2013, but some sites may have higher income limits. To find a VITA site near you, call 1-800-906-9887, or find a location through the IRS here.
  • Go to an AARP Foundation Tax-Aide site and have your return filed. These sites will even help tax filers who have not reached retirement age. You can find a site in your area at the AARP’s Tax-Aide Locator.
  • Use Free File Fillable Forms. The IRS offers electronic versions of paper tax forms that will do the math for you. However, you do need to know how to fill them out yourself. The forms are accessible at Free File Fillable Forms.
  • Use the Interactive Tax Assistant to get customized answers to tax filing questions. You can use the assistant to find out your filing status, whether or not you even need to file, your standard deduction, your eligibility for certain tax credits and much more. Visit the Interactive Tax Assistant and scroll down to categories. Each link will take you through specific questions and provide a customized answer.

Tax time is an opportunity to review your finances and plan ahead. If you are expecting a refund, make a strategic plan for the money well before it arrives.

If that refund is large, you may want to adjust your withholding to keep more money in your paycheck throughout the year. On the other hand, if you owe a large amount, make sure you are getting all the credits and deductions to which you are entitled.  Those who find themselves owing substantial payments may want to check on their withholding as well.

Filing your tax return may not be your favorite task in the world, but it’s certainly important. Fortunately, there’s plenty of help out there to assist you—and much of it is free. Take advantage of these great resources and cross this task off your list today.

(Photo credit: 160: Another year done by Denise Mattox. CC BY 2.0.)