Tis the season for holiday gift buying, family get-togethers, and readying to think about filing your taxes in just four more months.
Few people, if any, truly enjoy doing their taxes (unless you're owed an exceptionally large refund), but taking a proactive stance with your income can make a world of difference when it comes time to file your taxes on April 15 of the following year.
For some – especially young adults – tax time may not be too hectic. Perhaps one or two W-2's and a few investments can lead to a relatively quick tax return. For many Americans, however, filing their taxes can be quite complicated – and with roughly 4 million words currently comprising the tax code who can blame them! Ultimately, this leads many consumers to use tax software or seek the help of a tax professional, which can lead to a triple-digit cost just to complete and file their taxes.
But, there's good news for tax filers in 2015: you may be able to get your taxes done for free, courtesy of the Internal Revenue Service.
No. 1: Free filing software
Did you pay $39, $75, or more for your tax software last year? There's a chance that this year you might be able to get your tax software for free courtesy of the IRS.
According to the IRS if you earned less than $60,000 in income in 2014 you qualify to use brand-name tax software that'll walk you through the tough ins and outs of your taxes free of charge. As of two years ago 54% of all families made $60,000 or less per year. Furthermore, the tax software will allow you to e-file your return for free. Since paper returns result in about 40 times more errors than e-filing per TurboTax, it's a much smarter route to take.
Even if you made more than $60,000 last year you'll still be able to use the IRS' Free File fillable forms, although you'll need to have a keen understanding of how to prepare your own taxes. However, the IRS' software will still do the hard calculations for you.
No. 2: Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)
Not comfortable tackling your taxes on your own even with the help of software? No problem! The IRS notes that it offers income tax preparation assistance by IRS-certified volunteers to those individuals who made $53,000 or less in 2014. In addition to providing help for lower-income Americans, VITA is there to provide assistance to the elderly, for disabled persons, and for those who speak limited English.
Last year the United Way notes it helped more than 6,000 households with free tax preparation services through the VITA program resulting in nearly $2.6 million worth of refunds returned to these families.
No. 3: Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE)
Lastly, IRS-certified volunteers also provide tax preparation assistance specifically with the needs of the elderly in mind. For seniors aged 60 and up with unique tax concerns, such as retirement-related assets and pensions, the TCE program provides volunteers to provide free tax prep services. Best of all, many of these volunteers are also senior citizens themselves, so they tend to be acutely aware of the financial concerns of other seniors when assisting with their tax preparation and filing.
A critical thing to keep in mind with the VITA and TCE programs is to ensure you have all of your appropriate documentation with you. Thankfully, the IRS provides a checklist for consumers.
These programs may not make having your taxes completed any more fun, but it could very well reduce your cost for tax preparation down to zero!