Better Budgeting: How to Get Your Taxes Done for Free

How to Get Your Taxes Done for Free

How and Where to Get Your Taxes Done for FREE!

by Michelle Jones, Founder of BetterBudgeting

Wondering how and where to file your personal income taxes for free? Here's a few of our favorite options that can help you get the job done quick and pain-free. Well, it will be pain-free unless you owe money. That's never fun. If you end up owing money or getting a very large refund you should also consider adjusting your W4 form with your employer before your next paycheck is processed. The form comes with a worksheet updated with current tax laws to help you calculate the correct amount of withholding allowances to claim. I'll also include a W4 Calculator later in this article. The goal is to end each year as close to ZERO as possible; either a small refund due or an even smaller balance owed.

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Nothing is Certain but Death and Taxes

Although I do not agree with this pessimistic outlook on life, I was curious as to who said it first. So, I Googled it and here's what I found:

According to Wikipedia, Benjamin Franklin made the following statement in a letter dated 1789... "Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." An earlier and similar quote was made by Daniel Defoe and even earlier, in 1716, Christopher Bullock wrote in The Cobbler of Preston, "Tis impossible to be sure of anything but death and taxes." 

When folks (and our kids who are now all young adults - OMG) complain about paying taxes, I like to point out that in most cases, we only pay taxes if we are employed and earning money, and being employed and earning money is a good thing. Although, the amount we pay, who we pay, and what they do with all that money is a whole other matter.

Annual Tax Filing Due Date

The annual due date to file your individual income taxes (Federal and State) is usually April 15th. Except when that date falls on a weekend or holiday, then it's extended to the next available business day.

IRS.Gov

In an effort to assist taxpayers our government spent several years (and a lot of our tax money) developing a FREE tax filing service that would be readily available for everyone because so many companies were charging hefty fees for personal tax filing services. The Free File service first became available in 2003 and continues to improve. It doesn't matter what your income level is, whether you itemize deductions or not, or if you have one child or ten. Whatever your tax filing status is, the IRS may be able to provide all the resources you need.

You can prepare and completely file your taxes for free with Free File on the Internal Revenue Service website. Free File name brand software and free state return options are also available if you meet the current income level requirements. (If you make too much money to qualify for the free State returns, you will need to do your own math, or use your own software, but forms and filing is still free. FREE!)


Free Community Tax Help

If you have a favorite local bank or credit union, give them a call or visit to see if they offer free tax filing assistance. Chances are pretty good that they do, AND, you don't even have to be a senior (or completely broke) to get this free service. All you have to do is ask.

AARP

The AARP Foundation Tax-Aide has been helping low- and moderate-income families with free tax preparation for over 50 years. The great news is you don't have to be a senior for their help either, AND, you don't have to be an AARP member to get help. For locations near you check their Tax Aide Site Locator or call 888-227-7669.


Turbo Tax

Free tax filing is also easy with TurboTax (Free Edition). If you file early in the year you can also file your State taxes for free if you meet income level requirements. If you miss the "Absolutely" free filing (Fed and State) period that usually ends mid-March you can still file almost free with TurboTax and their website and software is extremely helpful. They guide you through preparing your tax forms by asking you questions and then when you're done you have the option of e-filing your taxes directly online or printing your forms to file by mail.


H&R Block - Tax Act

These two tax filing companies are pretty much the same as TurboTax, though I'm sure their marketing departments would cringe if they knew I just said that. Check them both out and choose whichever one you prefer. As you can probably tell, when it comes to online or software tax filing services, I actually do prefer TurboTax and their company Intuit.


What if You Owe Money and Cannot Pay?

If you discover that you owe money on April 15th and cannot afford to pay the full amount of tax due send as much as you can when you file your taxes to reduce the amount of interest and penalties that will be added. You can also call or write them to request a payment arrangement that you can afford. Federal interest and penalty fees can be the absolute worst of anywhere; other than Pay Day and Title Loan (SHARKS) which should all be illegal.

Update Your W4

The IRS has an up to date Withholding Calculator to help you claim the correct amount of taxes to be withheld from your paychecks every month. They recommend updating your W4 once a year or anytime you have changes in your life that might affect your taxes.

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Do you have a favorite tax filing option that I have not listed here? Please contact me, I'd love to hear from you! Note: Helpful comments or suggestions may be added here with your permission.

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Copyright © 2018 by Michelle Jones. All rights reserved.

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