There’s no doubt about it: income taxes are complicated. From the forms to the terminology to the numbers, it’s easy to make a mistake. So if you need help completing and filing your taxes this year, think about reaching out for help. There are a number of groups and organizations around Texas who are offering tax preparation services for free for those who qualify.
Looking for free tax preparation help? There are two main organizations that sponsor free tax help for low to moderate income people and those age 60 and older. Here’s how to find them and what they can do for you:
Free Tax Help from VITA
Nonprofits and community groups around Texas are part of VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) and offer free tax filing to folks with low to moderate incomes, persons with disabilities, the elderly or people with limited English skills. The income limits vary – the IRS says $54,000 yearly or less, but VITA San Antonio, for example, helps people at $60,000 or less. VITA groups generally start preparing taxes in mid-January.
To find a VITA site near you, visit the IRS’ Free Tax Prep Locator Page or call 1-800-906-9887.
Free Tax Help from Tax Aide from the AARP
This large tax prep program is run by the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) and is open to anyone, although it serves mostly those who are 60 or older, and low- to middle-income filers. Over 2,000 volunteers serve at 300 different sites around Texas each year, such as libraries, churches and community centers. Volunteers are certified every year so they’re up to date with changes to the tax code. Tax Aide groups begin operating February 1st.
To find a Tax Aide site near you, visit the AARP’s locator page at or call 888-227-7669.
What Documents To Bring For Free Tax Help
Both programs will require you to bring all the necessary documentation for your taxes, including an ID, Social Security card, income statements like W-2s, health care statements, copies of last year’s return and more. For the list of documentation for VITA sites, visit the VITA checklist here, and for the documentation required for Tax Aide Sites, check out Important Documents to Bring to the Tax-Aide Site.
Don’t Wait Until April
Both VITA and Tax Aide are first-come, first-serve programs, meaning you need to get to a site early if you want guaranteed help. Unfortunately, the programs do end up sending people away because of limited volunteer hours. Get to your local community site in February or early March for the best chance at getting free help.
Be Prepared If You Get Audited
No matter how conscientious you are about your taxes, everyone fears getting an audit. Many legal insurance plans, like Texas Legal, include legal help representing you in case you were audited. All of Texas Legal’s independent and group plans include preventative legal service hours for IRS audit and collections defense. So after you finish your taxes, consider how much a prepaid legal plan could save you in case you get audited.