Updated at: 03/28/2013 4:39 PM
By JOSEPH PISANI
Free tax help is available, and it’s not only for those in financial need.
Some organizations offer free services regardless of how much you earn. AARP, the nonprofit organization that advocates for people over 50, has relaxed income requirements for who can receive free tax preparation assistance and also helps people of different ages. Meanwhile, the Internal Revenue Service offers free tax advice and basic online filing, regardless of income.
For taxpayers who earn under a certain amount each year, the free offers are sweeter. The IRS provides free in-person federal tax preparation as well as free brand name online tax preparation.
That said, those options are best for people with uncomplicated finances. If you’re running a small business or own investment property, you will be better off hiring a professional.
Here’s where to find free tax help:
FREE FACE-TO-FACE FILING:
If you want to sit down with a tax preparer, there are a couple of options:
AARP offers free federal and state tax preparation for people with "moderate incomes," says Bonnie Speedy, the national director of the organization’s Tax-Aide program. But it doesn’t have any strict restrictions. A person making more than $100,000 a year may be asked to hire a professional rather than use an AARP volunteer, says Speedy. But if the person has an income over $100,000 because of an early retirement account withdrawal, they’ll gladly help, says Speedy.
AARP will file taxes for younger people too. "We’ve helped college students file their taxes," says Speedy. And you don’t have to be a paying member of the organization. AARP’s tax services are available at about 6,000 locations around the county, usually in libraries, hospitals or senior centers. You can find a location near you on www.aarp.org. AARP has about 36,000 volunteers that are trained and tested, says Speedy, who is also a volunteer tax preparer.
The IRS offers free in-person federal tax filing too, but with restrictions. You must have an adjusted gross income below $51,000 to qualify. The tax preparation help is usually provided in IRS offices, libraries and colleges around the country. You can find a location at: http://1.usa.gov/11NL73m.
FREE ONLINE FILING:
If you would rather file your taxes yourself, the IRS offers free federal online filing for those with an adjusted gross income under $57,000. The IRS partners with about 15 different websites you can choose from, including H&R Block and TurboTax. Each site will walk you through the filing process step-by-step, but also comes with its own set of restrictions.
To use H&R Block for free, for example, you must make $57,000 or less and be under 52 years old. Go online, at http://1.usa.gov/WWHt74, to see which free service you may qualify for. Some states also offer free filing too, but you’ll have to search online for your state’s tax department to determine if it’s available and any eligibility requirements.
If you have adjusted gross income of more than $57,000, you can file your federal taxes for free, but you’ll have to be good with numbers. FreeFile is the electronic version of the IRS paper forms. There’s no guidance or assistance, so you’ll need to have some understanding of how to file on your own. FreeFile is available online at http://1.usa.gov/10a4DWK.
Got a tax question? The IRS gives out tax law assistance at no cost in its offices around the country. It’s available to anyone, regardless of income. You’ll need to pop into an IRS office. Try calling ahead to see if you need to make an appointment first, especially as the April 15 tax deadline nears. Go to http://1.usa.gov/YJlmhY to find an IRS office that offers free tax advice.
_ AARP free tax filing location search: http://www.aarp.org/applications/VMISLocator/searchTaxAideLocations.action
_ IRS in-person free tax filing location search: http://irs.treasury.gov/freetaxprep/
_ IRS free online federal tax filing: http://apps.irs.gov/app/freeFile/
_ IRS FreeFile: http://www.irs.gov/uac/Free-File:-Do-Your-Federal-Taxes-for-Free
_ IRS location search for free tax advice: http://www.irs.gov/uac/Contact-Your-Local-IRS-Office-1
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(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)