How to File Taxes for Free

Personal income taxes are a terrible chore for most of us. Tax filing season comes once a year and many of us decide to wait until the last minute to file.

Why do we hate filing taxes so much? It can be confusing, we may owe money and we dread having to pay someone hundreds of dollars for half an hour of work. Filing taxes doesn’t have to be so bad. Here are some ways to get relief.

Self File

freefileYou can do your own taxes with the help of a software program. Most programs like TurboTax, TaxACT or TaxSlayer are quite popular and normally sell for around $25-60.

Alternatively, you may access many of these same products online at no charge through the Internal Revenue Service’s Free File partnership. Only low and moderate income households may file for free using one of these products. Keep in mind that while the federal tax filing may be free, you frequently have to pay up to $20 to file your state income tax return. Most states piggyback off of the federal return. Therefore, if you are up to the challenge, you can frequently fill your own state returns and mail them in based on the figures you obtained on your federal return, thereby avoiding a fee.

Volunteer Return Preparation Programs

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program is a partnership between the Internal Revenue Service and community organizations that provide free income tax preparation and filing. It is free to file both federal and state tax returns with refunds direct deposited usually in as little as 10 days. VITA volunteers are especially familiar with the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), child tax credits and educational tax credits.

AARP’s TaxAide program also files income tax returns for free, including both federal and state returns. TaxAide volunteers are familiar with some of the more complicated issues that many seniors routinely must document in their taxes, such as retirement distributions or investments.

For more information, contact the Internal Revenue Service at 1-800-829-1040. Ask them about free filing options.

Most importantly, avoid gimmicky tax preparers that emphasize refund anticipation loans (RALs). These companies charge excessive fees, make frequent mistakes that you are responsible for and often employ poorly trained preparers that focus more on selling you unnecessary products.

Kenneth Long
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Kenneth Long

President at Debtors Unite
Kenneth Long is President of Debtors Unite, Inc. as well as President and Vice Chairman for Vision Credit Education, Inc. He served as a regional coordinator for the North Carolina Saves campaign. Long co-founded the Wake EITC Coalition along with Family Resource Center of Raleigh.

Long is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a B.A. in Industrial Relations. He subsequently received his Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Duke University. His Certificate in Financial Planning was issued by Florida State University.

Long has achieved the Accredited Credit Counselor and Accredited Financial Counselor certifications through the Association for Financial Counseling, Planning and Education. Long originally achieved the Certified Credit Counselor designation through the National Institute for Financial Education.

In addition to years of nonprofit leadership, Long has been an innovator in the field of volunteer tax return preparation programs. He assists volunteer associations and nonprofit organizations who seek to integrate credit counseling and asset-building programs with free personal income tax preparation. His approach to using free credit reports as both an incentive and a screening tool for placement into asset-building programs has been shared with members of the National Community Tax Coalition, the EITC-Carolinas Initiative of MDC, Inc. and nonprofit groups across the Carolinas.

Long assists members of our armed forces in the Carolinas, Iowa, Rhode Island, Georgia and Germany with financial readiness. Please support our Soldiers, Marines, Airmen and Sailors!

Favorite quote:

"The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not."

Thomas Jefferson
Kenneth Long
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