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Free Tax Preparation: IRS Free File and 4 Other Options for 2019

Here's where to get free tax software and free tax help if you have questions, problems or worries about your taxes this year.
Oct. 31, 2019
Income Taxes, Personal Taxes, Taxes
IRS Free File and Other Ways to Get Free Tax Preparation
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Tax preparation isn’t cheap, but you can get free tax preparation if you know where to look. IRS Free File is a great option for many, and there are four other routes to check out, too.

1. IRS Free File

What it is

IRS Free File is a partnership between the IRS and a nonprofit organization called the Free File Alliance. IRS Free File provides access to free tax preparation software from about a dozen big-name tax-prep companies. You must have less than $66,000 of adjusted gross income to qualify for IRS Free File (the IRS estimates that 70% of all taxpayers are eligible). IRS Free File providers include big names such as H&R Block, Intuit (which makes TurboTax), TaxAct, and TaxSlayer.

What you get

Provide some basic information about yourself and where you live, and IRS Free File will match you with free tax preparation software products. Even if your income is over the limit, IRS Free File provides everyone with access to fillable electronic versions of IRS forms (but not much guidance).

Where to get it

IRS.gov/freefile or via the IRS2Go app

2. Direct-from-provider free tax preparation software

What it is

Many major tax software providers offer free tax preparation software for people with really simple tax situations. These packages may be different from what’s available via IRS Free File.

What you get

Typically (but not always), these packages work for people who only have income from one job and aren’t itemizing on their tax returns. State tax returns are usually also included in these free packages, though some software providers tend to add a fee for that as the April tax-filing deadline nears.

Where to get it

Our tax software roundup compares free online tax software from some of the biggest providers.

3. Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)

What it is

A federal grant program that helps community organizations provide free tax preparation to low- and moderate-income individuals, the disabled, the elderly and limited-English speakers. Generally, the income limit to qualify is $55,000.

What you get

Face-to-face free tax preparation from local, IRS-certified volunteers. However, this might not work for you if your tax situation is complicated. Volunteers won’t prepare Schedule C with losses (sorry, freelancers), complicated Schedule Ds (sorry, investors) or forms associated with nondeductible IRA contributions, investment income for minors, premium tax credits, requests for Social Security numbers or determinations of worker status (i.e., whether you’re technically an employee or an independent contractor). At some sites, you might be able to do your own free tax preparation using web-based tax software with a volunteer to help guide you.

Where to get it

The IRS website lists VITA sites across the country.

4. Tax Counseling for the Elderly

What it is

A federal grant program that helps community organizations provide free tax preparation. Although the program was established to help people 60 and older, and still prioritizes that demographic, there’s actually no minimum age requirement. Trained volunteers do the tax preparation.

What you get

Similar to VITA, community organizations and nonprofits use grant money to provide free tax preparation. Most TCE sites are operated by the AARP Foundation’s Tax-Aide program.

Where to get it

The IRS website lists TCE sites.

5. MilTax

What it is

A Department of Defense program that provides free tax software from H&R Block, as well as financial and legal resources and other help to military members and their families.

What you get

In addition to free tax software, trained MilTax consultants can give free tax help by phone and via live chat. MilTax participates in the VITA program, which means you also can get face-to-face help on base or nearby.

Where to get it

Head to Militaryonesource.mil to get the software, find helpline numbers and hours of operation and see if a nearby installation has a VITA site.

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