4 Ways You May Be Able to Prepare and File Your Taxes for Free

There are a number of ways to prepare your taxes, but these four methods may offer you a way to do so completely free of charge.

Apr 12, 2014 at 10:31AM

I don't want to alarm anyone, but unless you're planning to file for an extension, your taxes are due in less than four days!

Tax time is a hectic time of year for a number of Americans who will spend hours digging through receipts and attempting to decipher what equates to about 58 novels worth of tax code. However, the end result is often worth it for most folks, as greater than 80% of citizens who file taxes will get a refund.

Www
Source: Philip Taylor, Flickr.

But before you can even think about pocketing that refund, you have to think about how you're going to file your taxes in the first place. There are a number of possible choices including do-it-yourself tax preparation software, taking your receipts and W2s into an accountant or tax professional, or even going it alone and filing your taxes the old-fashioned way using IRS forms and a pencil (yes, people still do this!).

One little known fact, though, about the tax preparation process is there are quite a few avenues open for consumers to get their taxes done for free. But like most free services, these aren't heavily advertised, so they often fall through the cracks. Today we're going to look at four ways you may be able to qualify for tax help or filing assistance that results in absolutely no cost to you.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, or VITA, offers free tax assistance for individuals who make $52,000 or less, as well as persons with disabilities and people who have a limited ability to speak English. If you qualify for this program IRS-certified volunteers will help you prepare and file your taxes electronically completely free of charge!

Tax Counseling for the Elderly
The second program offered by the IRS is Tax Counseling for the Elderly, or TCE, and is offered to citizens aged 60 and older. AARP supplies the trained professionals that help walk seniors through their individual tax situations which often involve pensions and retirement plans. According to the IRS, these tax professionals are often retired themselves and receive grants from the IRS to help seniors with their taxes, so they're well versed in even the most complex tax scenarios. Best off all, the program is free for qualified individuals.

IRS Free File software
There are a number of different tax preparation software solutions for the John and Jane Q. Public to choose from. However, if you made less than $58,000 in the previous year and feel comfortable enough preparing your taxes online without the assistance of being walked through your income, deductions, and credits on a step-by-step basis, then the IRS Free File software could be for you.

The obvious advantage here is the ease of entering data and the fact that e-filing reduces your chances of an error compared to a paper form by a factor of 40! On the other hand, tax filers will want to keep in mind that this free software doesn't have those pinpoint instructions you'll find with most tax-prepping software that you'll pay for. Thankfully, you can either call your local IRS office or stop by for free help should you get stumped with a question or number of questions.

Brand-name tax-prepping software
Lastly, consumers with extremely simple returns (i.e., Form 1040-EZ) may be able to turn to brand-name tax-preparation software such as Intuit's (NASDAQ:INTU) TurboTax, Blucora's (NASDAQ:BCOR) TaxAct, and H&R Block's (NYSE:HRB) At Home software to get their preparation and e-file done for free. Keep in mind that if you have any less common sources of income such as alimony, capital gains, or dividends you won't be able to file Form 1040EZ. Similarly, in the deductions column you can only claim the Earned Income Tax Credit or the Work Pay Tax Credit. If you have other deductions to claim, such as mortgage interest, educations expenses, or child tax credits you'll need to step up to the pay version of either TurboTax, TaxAct, or H&R Block At Home.

Have you taken advantage of this little-known tax "loophole?"
Recent tax increases have affected nearly every American taxpayer. But with the right planning, you can take steps to take control of your taxes and potentially even lower your tax bill. In our brand-new free special report "The IRS Is Daring You to Make This Investment Now!," you'll learn about the simple strategy to take advantage of a little-known IRS rule. Don't miss out on advice that could help you cut taxes for decades to come. Click here to learn more.

Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong, track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong.

The Motley Fool owns shares of, and recommends Intuit. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

1 Key Step to Get Rich

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better. Whether that’s helping people overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we can help.

Feb 1, 2016 at 4:54PM

To be perfectly clear, this is not a get-rich action that my Foolish colleagues and I came up with. But we wouldn't argue with the approach.

A 2015 Business Insider article titled, "11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich" rated The Motley Fool as the #1 place online to get smarter about investing.

"The Motley Fool aims to build a strong investment community, which it does by providing a variety of resources: the website, books, a newspaper column, a radio [show], and [newsletters]," wrote (the clearly insightful and talented) money reporter Kathleen Elkins. "This site has something for every type of investor, from basic lessons for beginners to investing commentary on mutual funds, stock sectors, and value for the more advanced."

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better, so it's nice to receive that kind of recognition. It lets us know we're doing our job.

Whether that's helping the entirely uninitiated overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we want to provide our readers with a boost to the next step on their journey to financial independence.

Articles and beyond

As Business Insider wrote, there are a number of resources available from the Fool for investors of all levels and styles.

In addition to the dozens of free articles we publish every day on our website, I want to highlight two must-see spots in your tour of fool.com.

For the beginning investor

Investing can seem like a Big Deal to those who have yet to buy their first stock. Many investment professionals try to infuse the conversation with jargon in order to deter individual investors from tackling it on their own (and to justify their often sky-high fees).

But the individual investor can beat the market. The real secret to investing is that it doesn't take tons of money, endless hours, or super-secret formulas that only experts possess.

That's why we created a best-selling guide that walks investors-to-be through everything they need to know to get started. And because we're so dedicated to our mission, we've made that available for free.

If you're just starting out (or want to help out someone who is), go to www.fool.com/beginners, drop in your email address, and you'll be able to instantly access the quick-read guide ... for free.

For the listener

Whether it's on the stationary exercise bike or during my daily commute, I spend a lot of time going nowhere. But I've found a way to make that time benefit me.

The Motley Fool offers five podcasts that I refer to as "binge-worthy financial information."

Motley Fool Money features a team of our analysts discussing the week's top business and investing stories, interviews, and an inside look at the stocks on our radar. It's also featured on several dozen radio stations across the country.

The hosts of Motley Fool Answers challenge the conventional wisdom on life's biggest financial issues to reveal what you really need to know to make smart money moves.

David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, is among the most respected and trusted sources on investing. And he's the host of Rule Breaker Investing, in which he shares his insights into today's most innovative and disruptive companies ... and how to profit from them.

Market Foolery is our daily look at stocks in the news, as well as the top business and investing stories.

And Industry Focus offers a deeper dive into a specific industry and the stories making headlines. Healthcare, technology, energy, consumer goods, and other industries take turns in the spotlight.

They're all informative, entertaining, and eminently listenable ... and I don't say that simply because the hosts all sit within a Nerf-gun shot of my desk. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers contain timeless advice, so you might want to go back to the beginning with those. The other three take their cues from the market, so you'll want to listen to the most recent first. All are available at www.fool.com/podcasts.

But wait, there's more

The book and the podcasts – both free ... both awesome – also come with an ongoing benefit. If you download the book, or if you enter your email address in the magical box at the podcasts page, you'll get ongoing market coverage sent straight to your inbox.

Investor Insights is valuable and enjoyable coverage of everything from macroeconomic events to investing strategies to our analyst's travels around the world to find the next big thing. Also free.

Get the book. Listen to a podcast. Sign up for Investor Insights. I'm not saying that any of those things will make you rich ... but Business Insider seems to think so.


Compare Brokers