Taxpayer Assistance Resources
The complex nature of the tax code can make preparing your own tax returns an overwhelming process for non-professionals. The Internal Revenue Service and other organizations offer free help to taxpayers. The following list offers information and links to free tax assistance programs that can provide answers and help prepare your tax returns.
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance
The IRS's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs offer free help with tax preparation to taxpayers who qualify. In general, the VITA program partners with non-profit organizations across the country to provide assistance to individual taxpayers who fall into one or more of the following categories:
- Earned $60,000 or less during the year
- Limited English skills
TCE programs are usually available to taxpayers who are 60 or older and specialize in helping seniors with questions about pensions and other retirement-related issues.
While the IRS oversees both programs, assistance is provided by organizations that have partnered with the agency and are staffed by IRS-certified volunteers. To find a site where either VITA or TCE assistance is offered in your area, check out the locator tool available on the IRS website.
The largest provider of VITA and TCE services is the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide Program which operates in locations across the country from January through April. Their volunteers focus on issues affecting taxpayers over 50 years of age. Locations for the Tax-Aide Program can be found using the AARP Site Locator Tool.
The IRS offers a variety of free resources to help taxpayers with their questions. The agency has also spent millions of dollars in recent years to hire more staff and offer additional resources to help to the public.
Interactive Tax Assistant
The IRS Interactive Tax Assistant (ITA) is a web tool that can provide answers to taxpayer questions. It will help taxpayers answer questions such as whether they need to file a return, their filing status, and whether they can claim a dependent. All of the information provided by taxpayers remains anonymous and is not stored or shared.
IRS telephone help lines have earned a reputation for long wait times, but a recent increase in funding under the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 has allowed the agency to hire new employees and reduce the wait times to an average of four minutes. However, waits are often longer during tax season.
Taxpayer Assistance Centers
If you'd like to speak to an IRS representative in person about your tax issue, you can use the agency's Find a Taxpayer Assistance Center Office tool to locate an office near you. It's recommended that you schedule an appointment in advance, but most offices also have walk-in hours. The recent influx of IRS funding has allowed it to increase staffing at its taxpayer assistance centers and wait times for walk-in appointments have fallen noticeably in the last year.
Taxpayer Advocate Service
If you are having tax problems that you can't resolve through the IRS, the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) may be able to help. The TAS is an independent organization within the IRS ensuring that taxpayers receive fair treatment and have their rights respected. It employs advocates who provide free tax help to taxpayers who are experiencing financial difficulties as the result of problems with the IRS or who believe the agency isn't operating as it should.
Tax Help for Military Members
Members of the U.S. military often face special tax situations and receive additional tax benefits that can make preparing their returns difficult. The Department of Defense's MilTax program offers members of the military free tax software and support. MilTax provides free one-on-one help from tax professionals who have been trained in military-specific tax situations.
IRS Free File
Most low-income and moderate-income taxpayers are eligible for the IRS's Free File program. It is a public-private partnership between the IRS and most tax software companies that allows qualifying taxpayers to prepare and file their federal income tax returns for free. Taxpayers with an adjusted gross income of $73,000 or less qualify for the Free File program, which provides users with guided tax return preparation and tax forms that can be filled out.
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