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Spring is right around the corner, and so is baseball, April showers, and May flowers. There’s also another exciting event on the horizon. Yes, that’s right, it’s time to file your taxes.
For 2020, Tax day falls on Wednesday, April 15, which means you have just a few more weeks to get your taxes filed and off to the IRS.
If you’ve already filed your taxes for 2019, you’re off the hook. But for those of you who are procrastinating, still looking for all your documentation or simply holding off until the last minute because you owe money (after all, why pay the IRS early?), we can help.
Most tax returns are done via TurboTax because it makes filing taxes less of a pain, but that’s not the only option available to you. There are three main ways to get your taxes done: at home using a software program like Turbo Tax, using a tax preparation service like H&R Block and using a full-time certified public accountant (CPA). If you’re not technologically savvy or have complex returns that require the help of a professional, you do have the option to get your taxes done in person.
This option isn’t always the cheapest, however. It costs an average of $250 to have a CPA do your tax return. Retail tax professionals such as Liberty Tax and H&R Block are a little cheaper, but may charge between $150 and $200 per return, depending on its complexity. This is because tax professionals are able to answer your tax questions, which can be helpful if you have a complex tax situation such as a business or rental property. Plus, it’s more expensive to itemize your deductions rather than simply opting for the standard one.
Getting your taxes done doesn’t have to be expensive, though. For under $100 – or even for free if you qualify based on your income – you can get help doing those annoying taxes so you have time to do the things you actually enjoy doing (unless you actually enjoy math).
We understand tax time can be scary and stressful, but you don’t have to face it alone. We’ve compiled this handy list of places to get your taxes done without breaking the bank.
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)
VITA is a free program sponsored by the IRS. Yes, that‘s right, the IRS will actually help you with your taxes free of charge. This program uses free volunteers to help taxpayers complete their taxes. There are eligibility requirements, however, so not everyone can take advantage of this program. You must have a disability, earn less than $54,000 a year or have limited understanding of English.
To find out if VITA is available near you, click here. This online tool will also inform you if you need an appointment or if you can simply walk in any time. You can also call 800-906-9887 for more information.
The Armed Forces Tax Council
The VITA program also offers a free tax filing benefit for military personnel. A volunteer can help you prepare your return for free. The volunteers are trained in tax issues that affect those who work for the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and the Marine Corps. If you’d rather do your own return online at home, Military One Source offers a free version of H&R Block At Home to military personnel. To learn more about these options, call the Military OneSource Tax Hotline at 1-800-730-3802.
Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE)
Another free program sponsored by the IRS, TCE uses volunteers certified by the IRS. According to the IRS, the program offers free help to all taxpayers, but particularly those age 60 and older with low to moderate income.
Use the tool here to find out if this program is available in your area. You’ll be able to find out whether or not an appointment is needed. You can also call 800-906-9887 for more information.
Tax-Aide from AARP
Tax-Aide from AARP is a program similar to Tax Counseling for the Elderly. This program has helped more than 50 million people since it was created in 1968. It offers free tax preparation for seniors age 50 and older with low incomes who cannot afford tax help. There are 5,000 sites across the country. To find a site near you, call 1-888-227-7669 or visit AARP.org.
My Free Taxes
My Free Taxes is a free program by United Way. The organization uses H&R Block tax software to help qualified taxpayers file their taxes, so if you have a computer, you can pretty much do the same thing at home. You can file both state and federal returns for free. United Way offers support in both English and Spanish.
Families with a combined household income of under $66,000 are eligible for this program. Click here to learn more.
Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic
Some communities have clinics that provide free tax filing help to taxpayers with low incomes or those who speak limited English. These clinics are often funded with grants and led by legal aid organizations, law schools and business schools. These clinics can also help those who are having tax issues, such as audits, appeals and collections. The income maximum is typically 250 percent of the federal poverty level.
Retail Tax Preparation Service
While not many people get their taxes done in person any more, it’s still an option for those who earn too much money for free services and don’t want to do their taxes online. H&R Block and Liberty Tax retail locations can be found virtually everywhere.
These options are a bit pricier than the others, but you get peace of mind knowing that your taxes are done right. If they’re not, then you’ll typically get your tax prep fee returned. You won’t have to worry about getting audited.
These companies will work hard so you can pay as less as possible and get more back in refunds. You can also get your tax questions answered and you may even receive helpful advice do you can pay less taxes next year. You may also be able to search online for coupons and other offers so you can decrease the cost of your tax prep fee.
File at Home
If your return is fairly simple, and you can follow directions, filing at home is quick and easy. There are many software programs you can use, such as TurboTax, TaxAct and H&R Block. The most basic versions of these programs can be found for free in some cases, but in most situations, you’ll pay under $40. Even if you own a business or have tax situations that are slightly more complex, you can still use these software programs. You’ll have to pay a bit more for the advanced versions, but you’ll still end up paying less than $100.
You can file at home for free using some options. Credit score site Credit Karma also offers 100% free tax preparation for users. This option is best for simple tax returns, as this software is still new and is lacking in features.
Some tax preparation companies offer free versions of their software so you can file your taxes online. It’s important to be wary of these versions, however, because they may end up costing you money one way for another. For example, some charge for filing state returns. They also lack more advanced features, so if your tax return is beyond basic, you’re out of luck. Many also have hidden fees, like requiring you to pay to file online, or tacking on fees for using a credit card.
If you qualify, you can also use a program called Free File. The IRS partners with tax software companies to allow certain taxpayers to file for free. If you earn under $66,000 a year, you qualify. You will receive a free and secure tax software program to help you do your taxes. While the forms are free, state tax preparation is not included. If you earn too much money, you can still use the program to some degree, but you will receive only basic guidance and may not be able to use all the forms. Click here to learn more about the program and how it works.
Get Free or Low-Cost Tax Help Today
The only certainties in life are death and taxes. We can’t do much about death, since it can happen at any time. However, taxes are an annual event, and as much as many of us hate them, they must be done.
Nobody wants to spend too much money on a chore they despise doing, and filing taxes is no exception. The options above will help make tax time more bearable by keeping more of your hard-earned money in your pocket. Check out one of the options today and get your taxes filed before you forget and end up having to pay late fees. Who knows, you may be pleasantly surprised to find out that you’ll be getting money back after all.