Even if you’re expecting a tax refund, this time of year can be, well, taxing on your wallet when it comes to paying for tax preparation services. The good news is that, if you qualify, you can get FREE help filing your return and not spend a dime. Here are some programs to investigate:
♦ Using Free File, taxpayers have a fast, safe and FREE option when it comes to preparing their own federal taxes. Free File offers brand-name online tax-preparation software to individuals or families who earned who earned $66,000 or less in 2017. (That’s about 70% of taxpayers.)
Those who earned more can still use the FREE online fillable forms (but not the software). Both options allow you to file returns electronically and use direct deposit, the fastest way to get refunds. FreeFile does the hard work for you. The software asks questions and you provide the answers. It picks the right forms, does the math and helps you find all the tax benefits for which you are eligible.
If you are nervous about doing your own taxes, there are other FREE options.
♦ Check out the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA). This is a service for families earning $55,000 or less. IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic income tax return preparation and can inform taxpayers about special tax credits for which they may qualify such as Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, and Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled. VITA sites are generally located at community centers, libraries, schools, shopping malls, and other convenient locations. Find a VITA site here.
♦ The Denver Asset Building Coalition (DABC) helps low- and moderate-income wage earners with FREE federal and state income tax preparation. DABC operates Tax Supersites in Lakewood and Aurora, Valet Sites (with drop off and pick up only) and Tax-A-Thon Sites starting in late-January. You’ll find a complete list of DABC Free Tax SuperSites here. Services are available on a walk-in basis. Families making less than $55,000 or single filers making less than $35,000 in total income are eligible. Wait times are usually less than 30 minutes.
♦ The AARP Foundation Tax-Aide Program offers FREE tax preparation assistance for low-income taxpayers — especially those 60 and older. Membership is not required and all ages may use this service. Last year, in Colorado, volunteers helped more than 31,000 people file their federal and state tax returns.
Colorado has more than 50 Tax-Aide sites, including senior centers, libraries and other convenient locations. Starting in late January you can locate an AARP Foundation Tax-Aide site by visiting www.aarp.org/findtaxhelp or call (toll free) 1-888-687-2277. You can search for sites nearest to your home or work. Do read each listing carefully as some sites operate only on certain days and/or require appointments. Others welcome walk-ins. Be sure to bring these forms with you.
♦ This year, Tax Help Colorado will operate 23 free tax sites across Colorado, most of them on community college campuses. Individuals and families with household incomes of less than $54,000 qualify for help in preparing and filing tax returns. Many families are also eligible to receive valuable tax benefits such as the earned income tax credit and child tax credit. Those with busy schedules (and admit it, that is most of us, can take advantage of a “Drop-Off” service. Read our post for complete details.