Editor's note: This article was updated with filing dates and figures for 2018 tax returns.
The Internal Revenue Service began accepting 2018 returns on Jan. 28. If you need assistance figuring out the often-complex tax rules, you can take advantage of free preparation and advice from AARP, the IRS, volunteer organizations and some commercial tax advisors.
The last day to file for most taxpayers is April 15. Taxpayers who live in Maine or Massachusetts have until April 17 to file their returns because of the April 15 Patriots’ Day holiday in those states, followed by the IRS being off for the Emancipation Day holiday observed on April 16 in Washington, D.C.
No matter where you live, here’s where to get help.
AARP Foundation Tax-Aide offers free tax preparation assistance Feb. 1 through April 15. Now in its 51st year, Tax-Aide has helped more than 68 million low- and moderate-income taxpayers. You don’t have to be an AARP member, and there’s no age requirement to get tax help from IRS-certified volunteers. Check the Tax-Aide Site Locator for locations or call 888-227-7669 toll-free.
Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE). A federal grant program provides tax preparation assistance to those 60 and older from IRS-certified volunteers. (Most TCE sites are operated by AARP Foundation Tax-Aide.) For more information, call 888-227-7669 toll-free or check online.
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA). Under another federal grant program, IRS-certified VITA volunteers provide tax-preparation services to older Americans, low- and moderate-income filers, people with disabilities and those with limited English language skills. Generally, taxpayers must have an annual income below $55,000 to qualify. Call 800-906-9887 to find a nearby VITA site. Online assistance is also available.
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IRS Free File. About 70 percent of taxpayers are eligible to file federal tax returns online through IRS Free File, which connects single filers and families with annual income below $66,000 to free filing software from select partners like TaxAct and TurboTax. Taxpayers have filed more than 53 million returns using Free File in the 16 years it’s been offered. To browse options and confirm your eligibility, visit Free File Software Offers page.
IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TACs). Help is also available at local IRS offices that host a Taxpayer Assistance Center. All TACs now operate by appointment; services may vary by office. Check the IRS site to find a location near you.
MilTax Filing Service. A Department of Defense-funded program (Military OneSource) provides e-filing software to active duty military personnel and select others, including spouses, dependent children and survivors. Consultants are available to provide 24/7 phone assistance at 800-342-9647. Check the Military OneSouce site for more information.
Do-it-yourself online options. Several for-profit tax providers offer online filing tools, including no-cost filing for federal 1040 and state returns (those with complex filing needs, like freelancers or business owners, typically need to pay for upgraded versions of these tools). Check H&R Block’s free online tax filing, Intuit’s TurboTax, Credit Karma Tax, TaxAct, DIY Tax and TaxSlayer Simply Free.
Your local tax professional. The National Society of Accountants says nearly 90 percent of accountants and tax prep professionals offer free client consultation and can help you decide if it makes sense for you to file on your own.