Where Lower Income Tax Filers Can Get Free Tax Help

by Mike on February 22, 2012


Many people experience ups and downs with their personal income. One year may find them with an income at or above the median income of $50,022 (as calculated by the Census Bureau for 2009-2010), and other years may find their income below that level.

If your 2011 income was lower than usual perhaps due to the economy or job loss, or if you are living on a fixed income due to retirement or some other event, you may be able to get free help filing your taxes.

In most cases, to receive free help filing your taxes, your income must be below a certain level depending on which free filing program you utilize.

Free File Program from the IRS

If you have a 2010 adjusted gross income (AGI) of $57,000 or less, you are eligible to utilize the IRS’s free file program. Tax filers can choose from 15 popular free tax filing programs including Tax Slayer, Turbo Tax Freedom Edition and H & R Block’s Free File, just to name a few. Please note that each program has its own requirements as to who is eligible to use their free program.

IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA)

If you made $50,000 or less, you can receive free tax help from IRS certified volunteers. VITA sites can usually be found at local community locations such as libraries and schools. Most VITA sites also offer free electronic filing. To find a VITA site near you, call 1-800-906-9887.

Tax Counseling for the Elderly Program (TCE)

This program specializes in assisting those over age 60. The volunteers who assist with the tax returns specialize in topics important to seniors such as pension and retirement issues. For more information or to find a site near you, call 1-888-227-7669.

Wal-Mart’s Free Tax Filing Program

Outside of the IRS sponsored free tax preparation programs, Walmart offers a free tax filing program in conjunction with the United Way. To utilize this program, your income must be below $57,000. You can either use their free online filing program to do your taxes yourself or take advantage of their van tour where tax professionals visit select sites during tax season and assist with filing.

What to Bring

To take advantage of one of the above programs, make sure to bring the following with you:

  • Picture ID
  • Social security cards for you, your spouse and dependents
  • Birth dates for you, your spouse and your dependents,
  • Wage and earning statements including Form W-2, W-2G, 1099-R, 1099-Misc from all employers
  • A list of any small businesses or hobbies where you make money on the side
  • Form 1099 documenting interest and dividend statements from banks
  • A copy of last year’s Federal and State tax returns
  • A blank check to serve as proof of bank routing and account numbers (for direct deposit of your income tax return, if applicable)
  • Total paid for daycare, and the daycare provider’s tax identification number or social security number
  • both spouses must be present to file jointly
If you had a lower income in 2011, you may have difficulty paying for an accountant using professional online accounting software to file your tax return or even paying for tax preparation software. In addition, the tax code can be so complicated that many people do not want to file their returns themselves. The IRS recognizes this, which is why they offer these programs to help low-earning individuals file their tax returns.


*Photo by 401K on Flickr*

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Untemplater February 27, 2012 at 2:43 am

It’s nice there are more free programs like that. Taxes can be SO confusing and a lot of lower income people miss out on a lot of deductions and tax help by not filing at all or doing things wrong on their own. I’m in the middle of putting all my tax stuff together now – NOT fun! -Sydney

2 Marissa @ Finance Triggers February 25, 2012 at 8:05 pm

Im pretty sure H&R Block in Canada does the same thing. I know a lot of students are getting their taxes done through them.

3 Andi @ MealPlanRescue February 25, 2012 at 2:19 am

Another reason to use these services is for accuracy. After I had to go head to head with the IRS once, I now only use e-filing, either the free file forms or through H&R Block or Turbo Tax. I used to always send hard copy, and then I got a random tax bill for $3000, extreme considering I was expecting an $800 refund. I called the IRS and went through my tax bill with the gentleman on the phone. It seems the IRS agent who entered my information put my long term stocks in the short term section, drastically changing my return. I was unaware, but all paper tax returns are still entered into the IRS system by hand, so now I use at the least free fillable forms to make sure the information I send to the IRS is exactly how I want it.

4 John | Married (with Debt) February 23, 2012 at 10:02 am

Great roundup. Military personnel and veterans also can often get free tax prep service through their state’s CPA Association.

5 Matt February 23, 2012 at 7:00 am

It is unfortunate that you had to write this post, but thank you for doing so. Remember the days when it was very easy to do taxes? Simply run down to the post office or library, pick up the 1040-EZ form and fill in a few boxes with information from your W-2’s. A few simple math calculations, slap it in the mail and you were done. The good ole days. It now takes me half of an entire weekend and a $90 TurboTax program to do my taxes.

6 John Ferris March 4, 2012 at 8:45 pm

Matt, I totally agree. It seems that my wife and I are ten times more broke now than we were ten years ago, but it takes us ten times longer to do our taxes because of all of our “assets”. Have a good year!

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