Filing your taxes probably isn’t one of your favorite things to do, especially if you have to cough up some extra cash on April 15. But whether you owe Uncle Sam this year or not, there are ways to file your taxes for free in 2017. Here are some possibilities you can consider as you think about doing your taxes.
Use Paper Forms From the IRS
Let’s go back to the basics: You can still file your taxes using pen and paper. All you’ll need to pay for is an envelope and postage. There are likely several places in your area you can pick up the forms — like your local library or post office — or you can print them off from the IRS website. If you opt to go to the library, you may want to call ahead to verify they have forms and information booklets available. While public libraries are likely the biggest option, you may also want to consider university libraries or even your local high school’s library if these are easier for you to get to. You can also go to a local tax office. No matter where you get the forms, using this free option is a good strategy for people who prefer paper over digital forms and don’t mind paying postage for mailing in their tax return before April 15.
File Taxes for Free Via the IRS Website
Prefer to use a computer? You’ve got plenty of options for filing your taxes for free online, which you can find at the IRS website. Anyone can use the online fillable forms, which are electronic versions of IRS paper documents. However, your options for which service you use depend on your income. (You can learn more about tax brackets in this guide.) If your annual income in 2016 was below $64,000, you can use Free File software. The IRS offers a Free File software lookup tool on its site to help you find options for free federal and state efiling. Make more than $64,000 last year? You can use the Free File Fillable Forms.
Free Tax Help From VITA & TCE
Taxes can be quite confusing, especially if you’ve never filled them out on your own before. You certainly don’t want to get them wrong or, worse, not pay them at all. (Unpaid taxes can impact your finances. Find out how unpaid taxes are affecting your credit reports.) The IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offers free tax help to people who make $53,000 or less, persons with disabilities, the elderly, and limited English speaking taxpayers who need help preparing their tax returns. IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic income tax return preparation and use e-filing to assist qualified individuals in their communities. The Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program provides free tax assistance to all but gives special priority to those 60 and older. The IRS-certified volunteers at TCE programs specialize in questions about pensions and retirement issues.
You can find a VITA site near you between January and April using the VITA or TCE Locator Tool or by calling 1-800-906-9887. You can use IRS publication 3676-B, available on the IRS.gov website, to prepare for your visit.
Other Things You’ll Need to File Your Taxes
Once you decide which method you’ll use to file taxes and have the forms you need, you’ll want to gather year-end documents from your employer, financial institutions, healthcare plans and any other records you may need for filling out your taxes. Think about what you’ve done throughout the year that you could possibly deduct, like medical expenses or charitable donations, and get that information as well. Once it’s compiled, log in to the software you’ve chosen to use or grab a pen and a calculator, and fill in the tax forms. If you have a guidance booklet, you can use the instructions to help you.
This article has been updated. It was originally published January 8, 2014.