By Jen Fletcher, 2017 Get It Back Campaign Intern
With tax season right around the corner, it’s time to start getting serious about how (and where!) to file your taxes. Taxes may be difficult for you, but choosing a way to file doesn’t have to be.
1. Free Tax Preparation Site
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax-Aide provide free income tax assistance for those who earn less than about $60,000 a year. Accuracy is prioritized: tax preparers at these sites are IRS-certified and all returns are reviewed by a second tax preparer. Tax-Aide, which is run through the AARP, primarily serves seniors, although they cannot turn younger clients away. VITA offers free tax preparation for workers regardless of age. Find your local VITA site here, and find your local Tax-Aide site here.
If you (and your spouse if filing jointly) earn less than $60,000 and prefer receiving help with your taxes, then a free tax preparation site is for you! These programs also can connect you with financial planning tools. Check out this document to make sure you qualify. If your tax needs are outside of the expertise of free tax preparers, you can try filing your taxes through MyFreeTaxes.
MyFreeTaxes is a free and easy to use tool to help file your taxes online. Sponsored by the United Way, MyFreeTaxes offers step-by-step tax filing guidance. This year, MyFreeTaxes doesn’t have have an income limit. MyFreeTaxes covers a broader range of tax forms than most VITA sites, while still providing high-quality service. If you don’t feel comfortable using MyFreeTaxes on your own, some free tax preparation sites offer guided assistance with the platform.
If you (and your spouse if filing jointly) feel comfortable with taxes and basic computer software, then MyFreeTaxes is for you! Because MyFreeTaxes has a higher income cap than free tax preparation sites, it’s a great option for people who earn more than $60,000, but still want to file their taxes for free. The program is simple to use.
3. Paid tax software
If MyFreeTaxes doesn’t offer the tax forms you need to file, or if you have specific tax filing needs, you may want to pay for tax filing software. Paid tax software usually costs less than going to an in-person tax preparer, and provides guided instructions to assist in the process.
For taxpayers who are confident in preparing their own returns, paid tax software is a great option. Before you choose your software, gather your tax documents and set a budget for yourself. You can use NerdWallet’s best tax software chart to compare options and find the best choice for your specific tax situation.
4. Paid tax preparer
If you aren’t comfortable with the idea of navigating tax preparation software on your own, a paid tax preparer will be your best bet. Although paid tax preparers cost about $300 on average, finding a qualified preparer will help workers who don’t meet the income requirements for free tax preparation or who have tax needs that are unsupported at free tax sites or MyFreeTaxes.
Unfortunately, the tax industry is not regulated, so be careful when looking for assistance. Although many paid preparers are honest, some preparers take advantage of their clients by not disclosing their fees or offering refund anticipation products. Check out these tips on finding the best paid tax preparer.
To find out more information on free tax preparation and tax credits for workers, visit www.eitcoutreach.org.