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Free income tax return preparation

Every year about this time, I remind readers that they don't have to spend hundreds of dollars to have their income tax returns prepared.

If you go to a “for fee” income tax preparation service, there is a good chance the bill for such service will be in the hundreds of dollars. Some well-known tax preparation companies advertise they will prepare your taxes for free but the catch is that this covers only the simplest Federal return and you still may have to pay for your state return.

So, consider these options:

AARP Tax-Aide Program – This is my favorite. AARP volunteers will prepare your Federal and Georgia returns for free and electronically file them for you. These volunteers have passed a rigorous training program and are certified by the IRS to prepare tax returns that have a reasonable level of difficulty. They have set no income limits. Some documentation regarding the AARP program indicates it is for senior citizens only. This is not correct! You do not have to be a senior citizen or a member of AARP to have your taxes prepared. These volunteers will prepare any return for anyone as long as the return is within their scope of capability. They will tell you up front if they cannot prepare your return. You can go to this web site to find the location nearest you (and hours open): AARP. Show up at least 90 minutes before closing time (preferably earlier) and bring the required documents. The best list of required documents is found on this page: Items you need to bring.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program - The VITA Program offers free tax help to low- to moderate-income (generally, $52,000 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. Most locations also offer free electronic filing. To locate the nearest VITA site, call 1-800-906-9887. The same documents are required as for the first option.

IRS FreeFile – This is an online capability that allows you to prepare your own return and file it electronically for free. Beginning around the first of February, you can go to this site: FreeFile. I don't know if any assistance is provided at this site for state tax returns. Many states do offer online assistance of various types.
So, if you have a tax return situation that is not too complex, FREE is the way to go.