Tax Time Guide: Check Out These Free Tax Return Preparation Options
Authored By: Internal Revenue Service
The Internal Revenue Service reminds taxpayers that free tax help is available in-person at nearly 11,000 volunteer sites nationwide and online through IRS Free File.
Get free tax help from volunteers
During the 2019 filing season, volunteers helped prepare over 3.5 million returns at thousands of tax sites nationwide. The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offers free tax help to individuals who generally make $56,000 or less, persons with disabilities, the elderly and individuals with limited English proficiency who need assistance in preparing their taxes. The Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program also offers free tax help to taxpayers, particularly those age 60 and older.
IRS-certified VITA and TCE volunteers are trained to help taxpayers claim the tax credits they are entitled to such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit and Credit for Other Dependents.
The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a significant tax credit for workers who earned $55,952 or less in 2019. The IRS estimates four of five eligible taxpayers claim and get the EITC. Nationwide in 2019, 25 million taxpayers received over $61 billion in EITC. The average EITC amount received was $2,504. The EITC is as much as $6,557 for a family with children or up to $529 for taxpayers who do not have a qualifying child.
The VITA and TCE programs can help answer many EITC questions and help taxpayers claim the credit if they qualify. Taxpayers may also use the IRS.gov EITC Assistant to help them determine their eligibility.
To find the nearest VITA or TCE site, taxpayers can use the VITA and TCE locator tool available on IRS.gov, download the IRS mobile app IRS2Go or call 800-906-9887. Help in other languages – Chinese, Cantonese, Hindi, Korean, Mandarin, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese – is also available at select locations across the country. The locator tool indicates where these services are offered.
For assistance preparing a tax return at a VITA or TCE site, taxpayers must bring all required documents and information including:
- Proof of identification (photo ID) for taxpayer and spouse
- Social Security cards for the taxpayer, spouse and dependents
- An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) assignment letter may be substituted for those who do not have a Social Security number (SSN).
- Proof of foreign status, if applying for an ITIN
- Birth dates for the taxpayer, spouse and dependents
- Wage and earning statements (Form W-2, W-2G, 1099-R, 1099-Misc) from all employers and other payers
- Interest and dividend statements from banks (Forms 1099)
- A copy of last year's federal and state tax returns, if available
- Proof of bank account routing and account numbers for direct deposit such as a blank check
- To file taxes electronically on a married-filing-joint tax return, both spouses must be present to sign the required forms
- Total amount paid for daycare services and the daycare provider's tax identifying number such as their SSN or business Employer Identification Number
- Forms 1095-A Health Insurance Marketplace Statements to reconcile advance payments of Premium Tax Credit
- Copies of unmasked income transcripts from IRS and state, if applicable
Use IRS Free File online
Taxpayers that want to prepare and file their tax returns electronically can use IRS Free File. IRS Free File offers brand-name tax software for taxpayers who earned $69,000 or less in 2019 so they can prepare and file their tax federal returns free. Taxpayers who earned more can use Free Fillable Forms, the electronic version of IRS paper forms. IRS Free File is only available through the IRS website by visiting IRS.gov/freefile.
IRS Free File also allows the taxpayer to get an automatic extension of time to file.
Taxpayers who owe taxes can pay online by phone or with a mobile device and the IRS2Goapp. When filing electronically they can pay with electronic funds withdrawal for free. Another option is to pay with their bank account using Direct Pay. All payment options are available on IRS.gov/payments.
Filing electronically and using direct deposit is the fastest and most accurate way to file. The IRS issues nine out of 10 refunds in 21 days or less. Taxpayers filing paper returns can choose direct deposit, but paper returns take longer to process.
Military service members and some veterans have more choices for free tax help
Military OneSource is a program funded by the Department of Defense that provides a range of free resources for military members, veterans and their families.
MilTax, Military OneSource's tax service, provides online software for eligible individuals to electronically file a federal and up to three state returns for free.
More information about OneSource is available at MilitaryOneSource.mil or by calling 800-342-9647.
Get more help
Taxpayers can find answers to questions, forms and instructions and easy-to-use tools online at IRS.gov. No appointment required and no waiting on hold.
IRS YouTube Videos:
- Free Help Preparing Your Tax Return - English | Spanish | ASL
- Do-It-Yourself Free Tax Preparation - English | Spanish | ASL