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Free help with tax preparation

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The April 15th tax deadline is fast approaching, but here's some encouragement — there’s a lot of free help available to get your taxes done on time.

Whether you are looking for free tax preparation services, low-income tax filing options, or volunteer tax filing, the resources in this guide will help you file your taxes for free (or at minimal cost to you).

These free tax services are typically offered for:

  • Low- to moderate-income filers
  • Seniors who may require specific guidance on retirement tax issues
  • People who don't feel comfortable doing their own taxes — or just don’t want to! 

If you have no idea which choice is best for you, here’s what we recommend:

Best free tax prep software

After evaluating all of the major free tax prep companies, TaxSlayer Simply Free stands out as a high-quality option — and it’s affordable if your tax situation is complex and you need to upgrade to the non-free version. 

TaxSlayer is accredited and has an A+ rating with the BBB, an excellent rating on Trustpilot (4.3 out of 5 stars), and a low upgrade fee of $22.95 (plus state filing fees) to TaxSlayer Classic if you need additional forms.

Learn more about TaxSlayer below.

Honorable mention: Since TaxSlayer is not available in all states, our next pick is H&R Block Free Online. It’s available in every state, includes forms some tax prep companies charge for (like reporting alimony income), and offers a professional tax review for an upgrade of $55. Plus, you can get your federal refund up to six days early.

Best free tax prep for seniors

We think the best free tax prep options for seniors are Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE). These free tax filing services are offered through the IRS and provide one-on-one, in-person help for filing simple tax returns.

Learn more about VITA below.

Honorable mention: If your tax situation is more complex, or you prefer to file online with help, we recommend AARP Tax-Aide. IRS-trained volunteers will help you file your taxes from start to finish at no charge. This service is available to people of all ages.

Best all-around free tax prep services for everyone

Our top pick for free tax prep services is the IRS Free File program. The IRS has chosen trusted partners to deliver free federal filing to taxpayers, and you get a choice of which one you want to use. Many of them also offer free state filing. The only drawback is you’ll have to meet income guidelines (most require an AGI of $79,000 per year or less).

Honorable mention: AARP Tax-Aide has no income or age requirement to get in-person help. However, if you prefer filing online, your AGI will also have to be $79,000 per year or less.

If you owe taxes this year, or from years past, also check out our review of the best tax relief companies to get out of tax debt.

Keep reading to find out about every place that offers free tax help near you and online: 

Free tax filing with the IRS 

The IRS offers several options to help you file your taxes for free and get answers to any questions you may have about your return, including:

  • IRS Free File
  • IRS Free Fillable Forms
  • Taxpayer Assistance Centers
  • Interactive Tax Assistant (ITA)
  • VITA and TCE
  • Direct File

IRS Free File

IRS Free file allows qualified taxpayers to file a free federal tax return online using guided tax preparation software through partners like TaxAct and TaxSlayer. There may be a charge to file a state return. Each partner will outline any additional cost for state filings.

Qualifications:

  • In general, you need an AGI of $79,000 or less (some trusted partners have lower income limits, so read the AGI qualification for each partner)

To get help:

IRS Free Fillable Forms

IRS Free Fillable Forms offers free federal forms for people who know how to complete their own taxes. There is no guidance offered and no options to prepare state tax forms.

Qualifications:

  • Forms are available to anyone regardless of income level

To get help:

Taxpayer Assistance Centers

The IRS has more than 200 centers throughout the country where taxpayers can go to get free tax help including:

  • Setting up a payment plan or making a tax payment
  • Requesting a transcript of your tax return
  • Checking your refund status
  • Getting answers to tax questions
  • Ask for help to file taxes online or in-person

You may also get help online or by phone if you are unable to travel to a center.

Qualifications:

  • All taxpayers are welcome to use an IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center
  • For help filing your taxes from volunteers, you must meet eligibility requirements for VITA or TCE programs

To get help:

Interactive Tax Assistant (ITA)

The ITA is an online tool you can use to get answers about tax laws based on your circumstances.

To get help:

Direct File Pilot

The IRS is rolling out a pilot program called Direct File to help taxpayers file returns online at no charge. It is expected to be available in most states by March 2024. 

The new filing options for federal returns will allow you to:

  • Choose English or Spanish
  • Follow an easy step-by-step process
  • Access support in real-time from IRS customer service reps
  • Access the software on computers, laptops, tablets, and smartphones

Qualifications:

  • You lived in a pilot state in 20231
  • You report certain types of income, tax credits and deductions2

To get help:

Check for Direct File updates

Free tax filing for low-income and seniors

Whether you are a senior or you’re filing taxes for a senior family member, these resources offer free senior tax preparation near you:

VITA and TCE Tax Services

The IRS offers free tax help through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE). These services are for simple tax returns and are offered from January 29 through April 15, 2024.

An example of a simple or basic tax return is one where the filer:

  • Uses IRS form 1040
  • Has taxable income from one or two sources
  • Does not itemize expenses
  • Has minimal tax credits

When you get in touch with a VITA/TCE professional, they can advise you on whether your tax situation is simple or complex. 

What you get with free tax help from VITA and TCE

VITA and TCE offer free tax help to seniors and other qualified taxpayers. All VITA and TCE volunteers complete IRS-approved tax law training and are qualified to prepare basic returns and answer tax-related questions. 

You may also choose to complete your own tax forms and have a VITA or TCE volunteer assist you through the process. With either option, your information is kept secure and your return is reviewed before filing to ensure accuracy.

With TCE, you can also get help navigating retirement tax topics such as pensions and income from retirement plans.

Qualifications for VITA:

  • Household income of $64,000 or less
  • Proof of disability
  • Ability to speak English is limited

Qualifications for TCE:

  • Taxpayers 60 and over

Cost:

All VITA and TCE services are free to qualified taxpayers.

To get help:

The University of Illinois VITA program put together this useful video of what tax filers can expect when they work with VITA volunteers to file taxes in 2024:

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program

Local library tax resources

Local public libraries provide access to free resources for people of all ages — including income tax filing assistance. 

Many libraries employ VITA or AARP tax preparation services to help those who are unable to afford tax filing expertise (keep reading for more info). Some libraries may use local volunteer tax preparers. 

For example, Boulder Public Library in Boulder, Colo., uses Tax Help Colorado, a service of the Mile High United Way.

Besides tax filing help, libraries offer: 

  • Books about how to file taxes
  • Free computer use with internet access
  • Printers (there may be a small charge per sheet)
  • Printed IRS forms and publications

Qualifications:

Library tax programs may have specific eligibility requirements based on income, age, or the complexity of the tax return. Contact your local library to find out what they offer.

Cost:

While VITA and AARP tax services are 100% free, libraries may offer additional services that are either free or low-cost.

To get help:

Contact your nearest public library by searching “library near me” online.

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AARP free tax preparation

A+ Better Business Bureau-rated AARP offers the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program from February 1 to April 15, 2024, which has helped more than 78 million taxpayers since 1968. 

While services are geared toward seniors aged 50 and older with low to moderate income, this program offers help to almost anyone who needs it.3 

What you get with free tax help from AARP

AARP’s IRS-certified volunteers can help with most tax returns. However, if your return is complex because you run a business and have employees, own rental properties, or pay alternative minimum tax, you may not qualify for free help.4

The program offers:

  • In-person help: Travel to an AARP Tax-Aide location to file your taxes for free with a certified tax preparer

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  • Online help: Prepare your own federal and state taxes online using AARP’s free tax preparation software, which includes access to live  help from an online tax counselor 
  • Online tax knowledge center: Answers to frequently asked tax questions 

Qualifications:

  • Don't need to be an AARP member
  • No age limit
  • No income limits for in-person help
  • To use the online tax preparation software, you must have a 2023 adjusted gross income (AGI) of $79,000 or less

Cost:

Tax preparation services are free to qualified taxpayers.

To get help:

Here’s a look at AARP Tax-Aide help from the perspective of a volunteer: Your Place Your Money: AARP Tax-Aide Volunteers

Free online tax prep software 

When it comes to online tax preparation, you’ll find that some tax prep software companies offer a 100% free product to process simple returns, including:

  • Cash App Taxes
  • H&R Block
  • TurboTax
  • TaxSlayer

What you get with Cash App Taxes

CashApp Taxes (formerly Credit Karma Tax) provides online software to process your state and federal tax returns for free. CashApp is an authorized IRS e-file service provider.

Cash App Taxes offers:

  • 100% free filing of state and federal taxes
  • Free IRS audit defense (Cash App Taxes works with Tax Protection Plus, LLC, to help you respond to the IRS if you are audited, including representing you in tax hearings and conferences5
  • Secure 128-bit encryption
  • Maximum refund and accuracy guarantee

Pros:

  • No hidden fees or upsells for paid tax products
  • Desktop or mobile access to tax software
  • Refunds come up to five days earlier if you deposit into your CashApp account
  • B rating from the BBB

Cons:

  • Must have a Cash App account
  • Not ideal for all tax forms and filing situations6
  • 1.2-star rating on Trustpilot

What you get with H&R Block Free Online

H&R Block has been around since 1955 and offers a free online product to file simple state and federal tax returns at no cost.

H&R Block Free Online offers:

  • No-cost filing of state and federal taxes
  • Secure 256-bit encryption
  • Maximum refund and accuracy guarantee
  • Option to file with the Earned Income Credit and Child Tax Credit
  • Ability to deduct student tuition, student loans payments and interest
  • Option to report retirement contributions and alimony
  • Auto import of PDFs or images 

Pros:

  • No hidden fees
  • Simple Q&A-style format
  • Federal refunds up to six days early
  • Desktop or mobile access to tax software
  • Free transfer from TurboTax Free if you want to switch
  • Option to upgrade to a professional tax review for $55
  • Multiple refund options
  • B rating from the BBB

Cons:

  • No live expert help or access to live phone or chat tech support (Upgrade to Deluxe for $35 plus $37 for each state you file
  • Not for business owners, side hustle jobs, or other self-employed income (Upgrade to Self-Employed for $85 plus $37 for each state filed)
  • No forms for Health Savings Accounts (Upgrade to Deluxe for $35 plus $37 for each state filed)
  • May need to upgrade if your return needs forms that are not included
  • 1.2-star Trustpilot rating

What you get with TurboTax Free

TurboTax offers a free online DIY tax product to qualifying filers. According to TurboTax, less than 37% of tax filers qualify for this free service, which allows you to process simple returns with minimal forms.

If you start with the free product but have a more complex return, you will have to upgrade to continue, but you will not pay until you file.

TurboTax Free offers:

  • Free filing of state and federal tax returns
  • No hidden fees
  • Maximum and accuracy guarantee
  • Secure TLS encryption
  • Option to file with the Earned Income Credit and Child Tax Credit
  • Option to file Schedule 1 (income from interest, retirement, social security, alimony, capital gains, and dividends)

Pros:

  • Easy to use with a Q&A, step-by-step format
  • Easy to switch to TurboTax from most other online tax providers
  • Snap a photo of your W-2 with your smartphone to transfer information
  • Access to the TurboTax community forum
  • Desktop or mobile access to tax software
  • Audit support (Q&A with a tax pro)
  • Option for Spanish
  • Multiple refund options
  • B+ rating with the BBB

Cons:

  • No expert advice included (available for an upgrade to TurboTax Assisted, ranging between $0 and $169 depending on the complexity of your tax return)
  • No ability to itemize deductions
  • No free audit defense
  • Not for business owners, side hustle jobs, or other self-employed income
  • No forms for Health Savings Accounts
  • 1.2-star rating with Trustpilot

Check out TurboTax Free now >>

What you get with TaxSlayer Simply Free

TaxSlayer’s Simply Free allows you to file a simple federal return (IRS Form 1040) for one state return for $0. To use Simply Free, your taxable income must be less than $100,000, your filing status must be single or married filing jointly, and you cannot claim dependents or itemize deductions. 

If your return needs forms that are not included, you’ll have the option to upgrade to TaxSlayer Classic for $22.95, plus any state filing costs.

TaxSlayer Simply Free offers:

  • 100% free filing of state and federal taxes
  • Maximum refund and accuracy guarantee
  • Secure SSL encryption
  • Option to claim education expenses

Pros:

  • Easy to use Q&A-style format to walk you through the return
  • Free, unlimited phone and email support
  • No hidden fees
  • Multiple refund options
  • Not for business owners, side hustle jobs, or other self-employed income
  • No forms for Health Savings Accounts
  • A+ rating and accredited with the BBB
  • 4.3-star rating on Trustpilot

Cons:

  • Can’t have dependents
  • Not available in Alaska, Florida Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming
  • No free audit support or defense

In-store Walmart tax prep 

While Walmart does not offer free tax help, they do offer the convenience of getting your taxes done while you shop, or you can drop them off. Through a partnership with Jackson Hewitt, Walmart offers complete tax prep services in an hour or less. 

What you get with Jackson Hewitt tax service

Jackson Hewitt is BBB-accredited with an A+ rating and guarantees:

  • Accurate filing of state and federal returns
  • Largest possible refund or your money back, plus $100

Besides its in-store tax prep in Walmart, Jackson Hewitt offers an online DIY tax product for a flat rate of $25 (which includes state and federal tax return filing). 

Cost:

For in-person tax services, cost varies based on location and the type of service you are requesting:

  • In-Person tax preparation
  • Drop off and go tax preparation
  • Review, finish, and sign your tax return
  • Get help with an IRS letter to resolve an issue

Some Reddit users said they were quoted hundreds of dollars for tax preparation:

Comment
byu/estesworldwide from discussion
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However, if you use Jackson Hewitt’s online tax filing services, you’ll pay a flat rate of $25 to file both your state and federal tax return.

What single parents need to know about filing and tax changes for 2024

Answers to FAQs about filing taxes for free

Where can seniors get taxes done for free?

Seniors can get free tax preparation from the IRS through the VITA and TCE programs. They can also get free tax filing help from the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program. All in-person and online services from these programs are free of charge. You’ll just have to meet eligibility requirements. 

Qualifications for VITA:

  • Household income is $64,000 or less
  • You have a verifiable disability
  • Your ability to speak English is limited

Qualifications for TCE:

  • Taxpayers 60 and over

Qualifications for AARP Tax-Aide:

  • You don't need to be an AARP member
  • There are no age limits
  • There are no income limits for in-person help
  • To use the online tax preparation software, you must have a 2023 adjusted gross income (AGI) of $79,000 or less

Are there any other low cost or discount tax preparation services?

Jackson Hewitt offers a $25 flat fee option for filing online that includes federal and state filing, from simple to complex returns. The lowest-cost tax preparation services are DIY solutions that require you to complete the return online using tax software.

When in doubt, it’s safest to choose options the IRS has vetted through its Free File program. 

All Free File partners offer a free filing of your federal return. Some offer one free state filing, and others charge a discount fee to file your state return. For example, ezTaxReturn charges $19.99 for each state filing.7

You can also check with a local CPA to inquire about pricing. Some may offer a flat fee for simple returns.

If you prefer in-person help, Wendy Barlin, CPA and tax strategist, says that another option is to hire an Enrolled Agent (EA). She says that EAs are licensed by the IRS and are often less costly than a CPA.

You can find EAs through the IRS website or by calling the National Association of Enrolled Agents (NAEA) at 800-424-4339 to get a referral near you.

Barlin also encourages taxpayers to tap into their network to find trustworthy, affordable tax help.

“Always follow recommendations of friends and family,” Barlin says. “Don’t ever work with anyone who promises you great refunds.”

How can I find someone to review my return before I file it?

If you prefer to complete your own tax paperwork and have it reviewed, you can get help from free volunteer tax programs such as VITA. They are staffed with people who have taken IRS training to help you complete your tax filing correctly.

You can find programs like VITA through public libraries, nonprofits, churches and community centers.

If you want to pay a tax professional, such as a CPA, they will have to handle the paperwork, as they are required to sign your tax forms and must ensure that they can stand by the information in those forms.

Where can I get help with state or local taxes for free?

For free help with state and local tax filing, check with local nonprofits, community programs, military support services, and state or local government tax offices. These resources may be able to point out programs where trained tax volunteers can help you navigate state and local tax concerns.

For example:

  • United Way offers MyFreeTaxes, a completely free service that helps you file federal and state taxes if you make $60,000 or less per year8
  • The Department of Defense offers MilTax, a free federal and state filing software and tax support option available to servicemembers, eligible family members, and survivors9

You can also dial 2-1-1 to find state and local tax help near you or by visiting 211.org.

Check out these other resources for low-income households:

Help for single moms: 16+ resources$500 monthly single mom grant
Government assistance10+ charities that help single mothers
Free money for billsEBT cash benefits
EBT on AmazonEBT discounts
Free foodFree baby stuff
Free appliancesFree air conditioner

SOURCES

  1. “Direct File” January 29, 2024. IRS https://www.irs.gov/about-irs/strategic-plan/direct-file#states
  2. “Direct File” January 29, 2024. IRS https://www.irs.gov/about-irs/strategic-plan/direct-file#income
  3. “2024 AARP Foundation Tax-Aide Service” Accessed January 29, 2024. AARP Foundation https://taxaide.aarpfoundation.org/
  4. “How AARP Foundation Tax-Aide Can Help You Today” Accessed January 29, 2024. AARP Foundation https://taxaide.aarpfoundation.org/types-of-tax-returns-tax-aide-can-prepare
  5. “Audit Defense when you file with Cash App Taxes” January 14, 2024. Cash App Taxes https://taxeshelp.cash.app/s/article/Audit-Defense-when-you-file-with-Cash-App-Taxes 
  6. “Forms and situations Cash App Taxes does not support” November 29, 2022. Cash App Taxes Support https://taxeshelp.cash.app/s/article/Forms-and-situations-Cash-App-Taxes-does-not-support
  7. “IRS Free File Partner: ezTaxReturn” https://www.eztaxreturn.com/alliance2024/?utm_campaign=ffa&utm_source=irs.gov&utm_medium=ffa
  8. “MyFreeTaxes” United Way https://myfreetaxes.com/
  9. “MilTax: Free Software & Support” Military OneSource https://www.militaryonesource.mil/financial-legal/taxes/miltax-military-tax-services/

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