Free Tax Preparation and Tax Problem Resolution Services
Where to Get Help With Your Taxes—for Free
A variety of nonprofits, universities, and even local Internal Revenue Service (IRS) offices provide tax preparation assistance and tax problem resolution services to the public for free. It's just a matter of knowing where to look, what programs you qualify for, and identifying your particular needs.
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA)
VITA is manned by a community of IRS certified volunteers who provide tax preparation services for people who earn $54,000 or less as of 2019. Taxpayers with disabilities, those who have limited English language skills, and the elderly are also eligible.
VITA is funded partly by grants from the IRS, with community locations in shopping malls, schools, and libraries. Most are available from February through April, but some remain open until the filing extension deadline in October.
VITA will help you prepare your tax return, and most locations will e-file your tax return for you as well. You can find a local VITA site by searching on the IRS tool provided online, or call toll-free at 800-906-9887.
Tax Counseling for the Elderly
Like the VITA program, Tax Counseling for the Elderly is funded in part by grants from the IRS, which partners with local non-profit organizations to provide training to volunteers so they can help senior citizens prepare their returns. You must be age 60 or older to qualify, and the program offers both tax preparation and counseling services. You can find a Tax Counseling for the Elderly location by calling toll-free at 888-227-7669.
AARP provides free tax preparation for people with low to moderate incomes. These services are operated very similarly to the VITA and Tax Counseling for the Elderly programs. You can find a local Tax-Aide site by calling toll-free, 1-888-687-2277 or by visiting the AARP Tax-Aide website where you can enter your zip code to search for nearby locations.
The Armed Forces Tax Council
The Armed Forces Tax Council provides free tax preparation assistance for military personnel and is actually part of the IRS-funded VITA program. Volunteers are specially trained in the types of tax issues that are frequently encountered by people who work in the Air Force, Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and the Coast Guard.
Military One Source additionally provides free access to H&R Block At Home if you want to prepare your own return. Visit their website to learn more, or speak to a tax adviser at no charge by calling the Military OneSource Tax Hotline at 800-730-3802.
Before visiting one of these free tax preparation programs, you may want to call ahead to schedule an appointment.
Low Income Taxpayer Clinics
The Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic Program (LITC) provides free or low-cost assistance to taxpayers who need help resolving tax problems, such as income tax audits and collection disputes over outstanding tax balances. They can also provide you with legal representation if you must go to tax court to resolve your problems. The clinics also provide assistance to people whose primary language is not English.
Nonprofits, universities, and law schools operate LITCs. They receive some funding from the IRS and they're supervised by the Taxpayer Advocate Service. The program is designed to help people and families with income that does not exceed 250 percent of federal poverty guidelines, but each individual clinic will ultimately determine if a taxpayer meets their guidelines. The IRS provides a directory of tax clinics on its website.
If you need assistance in dealing with the IRS, setting up payment arrangements for an outstanding tax debt, dealing with an audit, or understanding letters you received from the IRS, you can seek free or low-cost assistance from the following programs.
Taxpayer Assistance Centers
Taxpayer Assistance Centers can't help you prepare a tax return, but they'll provide free assistance in setting up payment plans, understanding letters from the IRS, and resolving tax problems. They'll review your documents before filing to make sure you have everything in order.
Unfortunately, these centers are located predominantly in larger cities, so you might not find one conveniently nearby. You'll need an appointment, so call ahead.
Taxpayer Advocate Service
The Taxpayer Advocate Service can help you resolve tax problems if you've been unable to resolve them by dealing directly with the IRS. Maybe you received a notice from the IRS that you just don't understand, or you owe taxes that you simply can't pay. They'll be able to advise you of your rights if you have a more serious problem.
The Taxpayer Advocate reports directly to Congress. It's an organization independent from the IRS. Call them toll-free at 877-777-4778.
IRS Free File
Maybe you don't have a problem with your taxes and don't really need someone to prepare your return for you, but you don't want to pay a lot of money for tax preparation software. IRS Free File has you covered if you earn less than $66,000. Some others might qualify as well—you can find out if you do The program is a partnership between the IRS and the Free File Alliance, which is a group of those software providers who are willing to offer free tax return preparation software to those who qualify.
You can still get free tax forms at the Free File website if you earn more than $66,000 if you don't mind filling them out by hand and you really don't want to have to pay for software or an online app.
What to Take With You to Your Appointment
Be sure you bring your tax documents and other pertinent information with you, including:
- All your W-2 and 1099 forms for the tax year
- A copy of last year's tax return
- Your Social Security card
- A driver's license or other form of photo ID
- Birth dates for yourself, your spouse, and any dependents, as well as their Social Security numbers
- Routing and account number information for your bank account if you want the IRS to direct deposit any refund you might be entitled to
- Health insurance statements for coverage you paid for if your insurer hasn't provided you with a Form 1095 that chronicles this information
If you have children and they attend day care or stay with a babysitter while you and your spouse work, take the tax ID number for your childcare provider, as well as records of how much you paid. You might be eligible for the Child and Dependent Care tax credit.
The volunteers at most of these sites will ask you to fill out a two-page questionnaire, Form 13614-C, which you can download from the IRS website and complete ahead of time.