Break out your calculators, everyone. It’s officially tax season!
As you are gathering your tax documents, you may be thinking, How much is this going to cost to file? With fees per return and each additional schedule, paying someone to file your taxes for you can get expensive. Preparation can cost anywhere from $60 to upwards of $400 (!!!) depending on the complexities of your federal return and who you choose to prepare your taxes. Oh, and don’t forget costs associated with filing state taxes, too. If you are like me and file two states per year, (Kansas and Missouri — gotta love living on a border!) you know these costs — on top of a federal return fee — can add up quickly!
Yes, sometimes it is necessary to have someone prepare your taxes for you. Individuals with more complex returns are often business owners or have large estates. In that case, you should choose an accountant you trust to get the job done right. For the rest of us with standard returns, we can find less expensive ways to get our taxes filed. In fact, there are even a few ways to get your return filed for free! Yes, I said free. Check out these awesome resources below to save money on tax preparation this year.
You can buy or download a computer software like TurboTax or H&R Block and file yourself for about $40–$60 depending on the package you choose. These softwares often give you one state return for free, then charge a fee for each additional state. Programs like these are very simple to use and walk you through your return step by step. All you need are your tax documents and an hour or so to get them done. If you are nervous about filing your taxes or you get stuck, oftentimes these softwares have a live support option that lets you consult a real life CPA to review your return or answer any questions for free!
If you don’t want to pay for your own tax software, you can file your taxes online at MyFreeTaxes. This website is developed by a partnership with the United Way and H&R Block. Households of any income can e-file simple tax returns (no schedules C, D or E) online for free. Just create or log in to your H&R Block account to get started.
NOTE: If you are doing your taxes yourself, be sure to have your previous year’s AGI handy for any online software you use. This acts like a security code to verify that it’s you. This number gets sent to the IRS, and if it’s wrong, they will reject your return.
Get your taxes done for free
If you make less than $56,000 a year, are disabled, or need assistance filing due to a language barrier, you can get your taxes done for free.
The IRS operates a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program, which prepares volunteers all across the country to provide free tax preparation to their communities. You will be able to file federal and state returns at no cost to you! How great is that? Some things are out of scope for VITA sites, such as farm income, small business income with inventory, or rental property depreciation; however, don’t let these limitations scare you away. VITA volunteers are certified each year and can cover most of your tax needs! For a list of what is covered and not covered at VITA sites, click here.
If you are elderly, check out the AARP Foundation Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) site. These sites operate similarly to the VITA Sites but are targeted to those 50 years or older.
Most volunteer sites run February through April of each year. Each site is different with regards to scheduling. Some are by-appointment only, offer walk-in periods, or some even offer drop-off services where you can leave your documents and pick up your completed return in a few days. Click here to find a VITA or TCE site in your community.
If you are a member of the military, you can also access special tax sites to get your taxes prepared. Your military base may offer a VITA site, but if it doesn’t, check out Military One Source for free tax preparation specifically tuned for military families. Whether you are filing yourself, or hitting up local volunteers to file them for free, you can do a little happy dance knowing a potential return won’t be bogged down by outrageous filing fees! Now, onto gathering all of the documents needed for your tax appointment. Don’t worry about not having all of your documents; we’ve got you covered! Check out the list below and click here to print your tax prep checklist.