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How to Get Free Tax Help

AARP Foundation Tax-Aide and even the IRS can give you free tax help

Hal Helfand answers questions from Max Cline (left) and Marilyn Wong during a two-day seminar in Oakland, Calif. on Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019 to train tax preparers who will be volunteering their services for the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program.
Hearst Newspapers / Getty Images

What’s your best tax strategy for 2023? Have highly qualified people do your taxes. For free.

Crazy talk, you say? Not at all. As long as you don’t have a complex return — say, a small business with employees or alternative minimum tax — it’s quite likely you can get your taxes done for free. Let’s take a look at your options.

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Tax-Aide

AARP Foundation Tax-Aide is the nation’s largest free filing program, and it’s aimed at taxpayers who are 50 or older. It’s available across the country and staffed by volunteers who are trained and certified by the Internal Revenue Service. You don’t even have to be an AARP member. Did we mention that it’s free? ​

AARP Foundation Property Tax-Aide - DC (76428)
Greg Kahn

Tax-Aide locations open in early February. You can visit a Tax-Aide office in person or check in virtually. You have seven options, most of which include filing electronically — the fastest way to get a refund. (You can also print out your return, sign it and mail it, but you’ll face a longer wait time for the IRS to process it.)

  • In-person visit. A Tax-Aide volunteer will help you fill out your tax form in the office. ​
  • One-visit scan. You make a digital copy of your tax records that is saved in IRS-provided software. Tax-Aide volunteers prepare the return remotely. You work with a volunteer online to finalize the return, file it and have the return sent to you using a secure transmission.
  • Two-visit scan. You visit a Tax-Aide site, where a digital copy of your tax documents is created and stored in the IRS-provided software used to prepare your return. Tax-Aide volunteers then prepare the return remotely. During a second visit, you work with a volunteer to finalize your return and obtain a printed copy.
  • Drop-off. You visit a Tax-Aide site and leave your tax documents with an IRS-certified volunteer. Your return is prepared by Tax-Aide volunteers working remotely. During a second visit, you work with a volunteer to finalize your return and file it. You leave with a printed copy of the return and your original documents.​
  • No site visit. (Internet only.) You create digital copies of your tax documents and upload them to the IRS-provided software used to prepare your return. Tax-Aide volunteers prepare your return remotely. You work with a volunteer online to finalize the return, file it and have the return sent to you using a secure transmission.​
  • Coaching. You prepare your own return and get support from an IRS-certified volunteer to help you along the way, no matter where you are in the process.
  • Self preparation. You fully prepare your own return using a software product that we make available through our website. ​​

If you want to visit in person, we recommend you make an appointment to cut down on wait times. Book an appointment now using the Site Locator tool, which will find a Tax-Aide site near you. If you would like to receive the latest information on Tax-Aide, sign up for SMS text alerts from AARP Foundation Tax-Aide.

Free file

The IRS will also help you file your taxes for free, provided you had adjusted gross income of $73,000 or less. Adjusted gross income is your income minus educator expenses, student loan interest, alimony payments or contributions to a retirement account. (Your AGI will never be more than your gross income and will sometimes be less.)​

The IRS offers two ways to file for free. The first is by using IRS-approved software, which will guide you through filling out the forms and help you send your return electronically to the IRS. Browse the offers and see which ones are best for you. Some will also do your state tax return.

​​For 2023, the following tax preparation providers are participating in IRS Free File. ​​

  • 1040Now
  • ezTaxReturn.com
  • FileYourTaxes.com
  • On-Line Taxes
  • TaxAct
  • FreeTaxUSA
  • TaxSlayer
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Tax preparation companies offer the software for the free filing program, and offer many options — some of which may require a fee. Be sure to stay with the free file option. And if you have income other than what’s reported on a W-2 year-end tax form — such as unemployment benefits — make sure that the software you choose can handle it​.

If you don’t want tax advice, but want an easier way to fill out the forms, try the Free File Fillable forms. The program will do the math for you. Then you can file electronically or print out the forms and mail in a paper return. ​

IRS Tax Volunteers

The IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly programs offer free basic tax return preparation to qualified taxpayers. The VITA program has operated for over 50 years. VITA sites offer free tax help to people who need assistance in preparing their own tax returns, including people who make $60,000 or less, people with disabilities and limited English-speaking taxpayers. TCE offers free tax help, particularly for those who are 60 years and older, and specializes in questions about pensions and retirement-related issues pertinent to seniors.

For more information, visit the Tax Counseling for the Elderly page and the Free Tax Return Preparation for Qualifying Taxpayers pages. You can also contact the help line at 800-906-9887. ​

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