The Internal Revenue Service will begin accepting 2017 returns on Jan. 29. 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 is April 17, two days later than the customary deadline. That’s because the 15th falls on a Sunday and April 16 is Emancipation Day, a legal holiday in Washington, D.C.
Here’s where to get help.
AARP Foundation Tax-Aide offers free tax preparation assistance beginning Feb.1. Now in its 50th year, Tax-Aide has helped 50 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 the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program.) 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 $54,000 to qualify. Call 211 to find a nearby VITA site. Online assistance is also available.
IRS Free File. About 70 percent of taxpayers are eligible to file federal tax returns online through IRS Free File. Single filers and families with annual income below $66,000 can use Free File software, but the IRS says the service is best for those who are used to doing their own taxes. Taxpayers have filed more than 51 million returns using Free File in the 16 years it’s been offered.
Check the Free File Software Lookup Tool to find federal and state tax return options.
IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TACs). Help is available at local IRS offices that host a Taxpayer Assistance Center. Services vary by office. Check the IRS site for locations and scheduling appointments.
MilTax Filing Service. A Department of Defense-funded program (Military OneSource) provides active duty military personnel online tax preparation assistance in person and by phone. Check the MilTax site or call 800-342-9647 toll-free for information.
H&R Block. Among the nation’s largest tax preparation providers, Block provides free filing of federal tax returns on simple 1040EZ returns. (1040EZ filers are typically single or married couples who have no mortgage interest deductions, dependents and whose taxable income is less than $100,000 annually.)
Do it yourself tax software programs. Several for-profit tax assistance providers offer assistance through tax software packages. Some offer no-cost filing on 1040EZ and 1040A returns and state returns. Check H&R Block’s More Zero, 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.