How to File Taxes if You’re Experiencing Homelessness

Filing taxes can be a complicated process, especially if you are experiencing housing instability or homelessness.

If you have lost your tax documents, don’t know where to file your taxes, or don’t know how to receive your refund, here are some guidelines to help prepare you to file your taxes.

Should I file taxes if I don’t have to?

Even if you aren’t required to file a tax return, you may still qualify for tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit. These credits reduce the amount of taxes you owe and may provide a refund at tax time. To claim the credits, all you need to do is file your taxes.

How do I file taxes without a permanent address?

Shelters and other service providers, such as health care clinics and drop-in day centers, may allow you to use their address for tax purposes. Other agencies that offer homeless prevention services like a Community Action Agency or Salvation Army are also options. If you are not staying in a shelter or cannot find a service provider nearby, you can also use a relative’s or friend’s address.

How do I file taxes if I’ve lost my tax forms?

To file taxes, you will need Forms W-2 or 1099, provided by your employer. If you did not receive these forms or misplaced them, you can still file taxes and claim tax credits by obtaining a copy of these documents from your employer.

If you cannot get a copy, you can fill out Form 4852Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, or Form 1099-R, Distributions From Pensions, Annuities, Retirement or Profit-Sharing Plans, IRAs, Insurance Contracts, etc. These forms will request information about your wages and taxes that are withheld, so it would be helpful if you have documentation, such as a final pay stub, to complete it. If you do not have a final pay stub, you may still be able to fill out the form by estimating your earnings.

If you are unable to estimate your earnings, you can request a wage and income transcript from the IRS for free. This transcript includes data for Forms W-2, 1099, and 1098. You have two options to receive the transcript.

Online: Register for Get Online Transcript, to instantly view, print, or download your transcript. Online transcripts are redacted and mask some of your personal information to help reduce identity theft.

To use Get Online Transcript, you will need to sign in with your existing IRS username or create a new account with To create a new account, you will need to have photo identification, such as a driver’s license, state ID, or passport. You will also need to take a selfie with a smartphone or a computer with a webcam.

Mail: Use Get Transcript by Mail or call the automated phone transcript service at 800-908-9946 to get your transcript by mail. You will need your mailing address from your most recent tax return. The IRS will mail unredacted transcripts with all your personal information visible to the last address they have on record for you. It will take 5 to 10 calendar days from the time the IRS receives your request.

If your address has changed from the one used on your most recent tax return, you will need to file Form 8822Change of Address,  to update your mailing address to the one you will use to file your tax return before requesting a transcript by mail. Transcripts cannot be faxed.

If neither of those options work, you can submit Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return, to get tax return information.

If your state requires you to file a state return, contact your state’s department of revenue or tax office to get info on any state tax withheld.

Where do I find free tax help?

If you (and your spouse if filing jointly) earn less than $57,000, you could qualify for free tax preparation in your community. Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and AARP Tax-Aide sites offer free and reliable tax filing services. They prioritize accuracy, with a rate of over 90 percent, the highest in the industry. To find a site, visit the IRS’ site locator tool.

If you have a basic tax return, there are free options to file online. You can visit Get Your Refund, a fully virtual tax assistance service where you can file your tax return with the help of an IRS- certified volunteer. Get Your Refund is free for those who earn less than about $66,000.

If you’re able to file taxes on your own, you can use MyFreeTaxes if you do not have self-employment income. If you are self-employed, there are many tax filing software options that may be more affordable than visiting a paid tax preparer.

Other Resources:

Claiming Social Security Benefits While Experiencing Homelessness

Outreach Tips to Connect People Experiencing Homelessness to Stimulus Payments

Homelessness Resources & Shelter Directory

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