Filing taxes is a crucial part of being a responsible citizen. It is an opportunity to contribute to the common good, ensure that you are receiving the correct refund, and avoid any legal troubles. However, the cost of filing can be a significant burden on many individuals and families. That’s why it’s important to know how to do taxes for free. Not only does it save you money, but it can be done easily and efficiently using the many resources available to you. You don’t have to be an expert to file your taxes for free, and this guide will give you all the information you need to get started.
Using Online Tax Preparation Software to File for Free
One of the easiest ways to do your taxes for free is by utilizing online tax preparation software. Some of the most popular options are TurboTax and TaxAct. Here are the key steps to follow:
- Sign up for an account with the software of your choice
- Enter your personal information and answer a series of questions to help the software determine which forms you need to fill out
- Input your tax information as prompted by the software
- Review and double-check your tax return before submitting it
For most people, you can file both your federal and state tax returns for free using these websites. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Make sure you have all necessary documents before starting
- Take advantage of the software’s help options if you get stuck
- Double-check your information for accuracy
Free Tax Preparation Services for Low-Income Individuals
If you don’t have access to a computer or prefer to file in person, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program is a great free resource. This program provides free tax preparation services to individuals who make $57,000 or less, have disabilities, or have limited English proficiency. Here’s how to access VITA services:
- Use the IRS website to find a VITA location near you
- Bring all necessary documents with you to the appointment
- Work with the tax preparer to fill out your tax return
There is also the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program which provides free tax preparation for those age 50 and older, regardless of income. The program is offered at more than 5,000 locations across the country, including libraries, community centers, and senior centers. Check the AARP website for more information on how to find a Tax-Aide program location near you.
DIY Tax Filing for Free
If you prefer to file your taxes on your own, there are many resources available to you to help you do so for free. Here’s what you need to know:
- You will need to find and download the necessary forms from the IRS website, or use a free tax filing service like Free File or H&R Block Free
- You will also need to have all necessary tax documents, which may include W-2s, 1099s, and receipts for any deductions you plan to claim
- Common tax deductions and credits you may be eligible for include the Earned Income Tax Credit, educational expenses, and charitable donations
- Take the time to fully understand the forms and the tax codes before starting your return
Pros and Cons of Hiring a Tax Professional versus Doing it Yourself for Free
While preparing your taxes on your own using free resources can be a great way to save money, there are advantages to hiring a professional. Consider these points as you make your decision:
- Accuracy: A professional tax preparer has expertise and experience in filing taxes, meaning a lower chance of errors or mistakes on your return
- Peace of mind: Knowing that your taxes are done correctly can provide a sense of relief and decrease stress
- Cost: While doing your taxes yourself for free saves you money, it can also be time-consuming and complicated work. Hiring a tax professional comes with fees, which may be more expensive depending on the complexity of your return.
However, if you decide that hiring a tax professional is the best choice for you, there are options for finding free preparers. One option is the IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service, which provides free services to low-income citizens. Another option is to work with a pro bono accountant or retired tax preparer through websites such as the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants and Tax-Aid.
Filing for Free If You’re Self-Employed
If you’re self-employed, you may be wondering how to file your taxes for free. While self-employment taxes can be complicated, there are many free resources available to help you navigate the process. Consider the following:
- You can often find free tax filing software and services that are specifically designed for freelancers and the self-employed, such as TaxSlayer or Credit Karma
- You may be eligible for specific deductions and credits, such as home office expenses, business expenses, and estimated tax payments
- If you’re unsure how to file your taxes for your business, seek out assistance from a tax professional or free tax preparation service.
E-Filing and Direct Deposit for Faster, Free Refunds
One of the benefits of filing your taxes online is the ease of e-filing. When you file online, you have the option of signing and submitting your tax return electronically. This process is quicker and more secure than mailing in a paper return. Additionally, if you choose to directly deposit your refund, you may be eligible to receive your refund money in as little as 10 days. Here are some tips for e-filing:
- Double-check all information before submitting
- If you are using a tax preparation service, make sure it’s secure and reputable
- Select the option for direct deposit to receive your refund faster and avoid postage fees for a mailed refund check
State-Specific Free Filing Options
Depending on where you live, you may have state-specific options for filing your taxes for free. Check your state’s revenue department website for more information. Some states offer free filing options regardless of income, while others are specifically geared towards low-income individuals or those with disabilities. Make sure you’re aware of any state-specific credits or deductions available to you, too.
Filing taxes can be a stressful experience, but it doesn’t have to be expensive. With the many resources available to you, you can do your taxes for free and with relative ease. Whether you choose to use online tax preparation software, free tax preparation services, or to file your taxes on your own, be sure to take advantage of all the information and assistance available to you. Remember, filing your taxes is an important part of being a responsible citizen, so don’t let cost or complexity be a barrier to your participation in this essential civic duty.