Expert tax advice on the simplest form costs just under $200 on average – and can head north quickly should you need to itemize or file a state return, according to the National Society of Accountants.
With the new tax laws in effect, you may need a little help. At a time when your life is about to be reduced to every nickel and dime made and spent in a year, it might relieve you to know that free tax advice is out there…
Start with the IRS
Who better to answer tax questions and get free tax advice than from the people who wrote the rules, namely the Internal Revenue Service? Taxpayers can call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. The IRS also can direct you to the right free tax software as well. If you made $66,000 or less, use the agency’s IRS free file tool to help you sort through options.
Get free tax advice in person here
Check out these helpful programs…
1. Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA)
This program offers free help to people who make $56,000 or less, the disabled and those who speak limited English. IRS-certified volunteers help prepare basic tax returns and electronic filing for those who qualify.
VITA sites during tax season are in places such as community centers, libraries, schools, and malls. To find one call 800-906-9887 or use the VITA Locator Tool.
2. Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE)
As the name implies, this federally funded program is for older taxpayers. Although it was set up to help people ages 60 and older and makes the elderly a priority, there’s no enforced age limit to this free service. The tailored advice answers questions about pensions and retirement-related issues unique to seniors.
The AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program runs most TCE sites. To find one near you, use the AARP Site Locator Tool or call 888-227-7669.
The non-profit arm of AARP offers tax help through VITA and TCE at more than 5,000 locations. Filers can meet with tax counselors who have advanced training from the IRS. The AARP service is for people ages 50 and older with low to moderate incomes, but Tax-Aide helps people of all ages. You don’t need to be an AARP member to get help here.
Clinic hours can change weekly, so check before you go. Tax-Aide Site Locator.
The Department of Defense offers free tax help for service members, including those in the National Guard and reserves, immediate family members, and eligible survivors. It provides its own e-filing software and connects service members with experts in military tax matters, via phone or in person at VITA locations.
Trained consultants take calls during tax season seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. EST or EDT at 800-342-9647. Outside of tax season, they are available during business hours on weekdays.
Free web tool with live help
Specific VITA and TCE locations allow taxpayers to fill out their income tax returns using free web-based tax prep software with guidance from an IRS-certified volunteer. Search for a VITA or TCE site near you that lists this “Self-Prep” service.
Get help online
For starters, if you have a question, Google it. The IRS, the experts at a variety of tax prep services or a well-trained blogger, such as TaxMama, might have the answer.
TaxMama invites you to “Ask Your Tax Question For Free.” As homespun as the website name sounds, the advice comes from pros and has been quoted by the likes of Consumer Reports.
Free tax software
Thought you had to pay to file your taxes through TurboTax, H&R Block, TaxAct or others? Not necessarily. Several companies offer base versions of their tax software for free. Free versions of tax software work for people filing 1040EZ or 1040A forms but shop around for the best deal.
For example, this year Credit Karma released a new tax preparation software called Credit Karma Tax. It’s completely free to file your federal tax and state returns through this program, and they have a help center online.
Most of these providers offer a way to get free tax advice. Many services provide a hotline or online chat room. Some offer more individualized help from a professional — for a fee.
Not sure which tax software or service you should be using? Check out our article How to Choose the Best Tax Software for YOU