Free Ways to File Your Taxes that are IRS Approved! - MetroFamily Magazine
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Free Ways to File Your Taxes that are IRS Approved!

by Karen Perea

Reading Time: 3 minutes 

It is tax time now and there are many places that will let you file or help you prepare your taxes for free. It is not required that you pay someone to do the taxes. And, if you file early, you could get your refund quickly.

I filed my taxes about a week and a half ago using Free File and I have already received my State refund by Direct Deposit and my Federal refund is expected to come shortly.

Did you know that the IRS has a section on their website called FreeFile?
Free File is a free, federal income tax prep and electronic filing program for eligible taxpayers, developed through a partnership between the IRS and the Free File Alliance, a group of private sector tax software companies. Taxpayers can do their federal income tax returns using commercial online software provided by the Free File Alliance companies. You must go to IRS.gov to access Free File. This year, you have until April 18, 2011 to file and pay your taxes or request an extension.

Who is Eligible for Free File?
The Free File program is open only to taxpayers with a 2010 Adjusted Gross income of $58,000 or less. Each participating company sets its own eligibility requirements and not all taxpayers will qualify for all companies. Individual company offers may be limited by AGI, geographic location, specific states and include other criteria, so it’s important to review the criteria before you choose. Or use the "Help Me Select a Company" tool to help you find a program that meets your needs."

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program
Trained community volunteers may help with special credits, such as Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, and Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled.

In addition to free tax return preparation assistance, most sites also offer free electronic filing (e-filing). Individuals taking advantage of the e-file program will receive their refunds in half the time compared to returns filed on paper–even faster when tax refunds are deposited directly into one’s bank account.

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program offers free tax help to low-to-moderate income (generally, $49,000 and below) people who cannot prepare their own tax returns. Certified volunteers sponsored by various organizations receive training to help prepare basic tax returns in communities across the country. VITA sites are generally located at community and neighborhood centers, libraries, schools, shopping malls, and other convenient locations. Most locations also offer free electronic filing. To locate the nearest VITA site, call 1-800-906-9887.

Tax Counseling for the Ederly (TCE)
The TCE Program provides free tax help to people aged 60 and older. Trained volunteers from non-profit organizations provide free tax counseling and basic income tax return preparation for senior citizens. Volunteers who provide tax counseling are often retired individuals associated with non-profit organizations that receive grants from the IRS.

As part of the IRS-sponsored TCE Program, AARP offers the Tax-Aide counseling program at more than 7,000 sites nationwide during the filing season. Trained and certified AARP Tax-Aide volunteer counselors help people of low-to-middle income with special attention to those age 60 and older. For more information on TCE, call 1-800-829-1040. To locate the nearest AARP Tax-Aide site, call 1-888-227-7669.

Military Tax Assistance
The military also has a strong VITA Program. The Armed Forces Tax Council (AFTC) consists of the tax program coordinators for the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. The AFTC oversees the operation of the military tax programs worldwide, and serves as the main conduit for outreach by the IRS to military personnel and their families.

Airmen, soldiers, sailors, marines, guardsmen, and their families worldwide receive free tax preparation assistance at offices within their installations. These VITA sites provide free tax advice, tax preparation, and assistance to military members and their families. They are trained and equipped to address military specific tax issues, such as combat zone tax benefits and the effect of the new Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) guidelines.

Most service members file their tax returns electronically at their tax centers and, by selecting direct deposit, receive their refunds in as little as one week. This combined effort ensures that service members receive free tax assistance from well-trained and equipped military tax preparers.

Happy filing!

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