In a perfect world, my reward for paying taxes all year would be a brief, shining moment to relish the cash I have left in my pocket. However, after paying Uncle Sam, that’s sometimes not the case. There still remains that aspect of taxes that we all do our best to avoid—tax preparation, filing and fees.
If you're not prepared to pay a professional accountant to do your taxes and you’re not amused by the high price of tax preparation software, rest assured that there are several options available to you that can ease your financial burden this tax season.
1. IRS Free File
The IRS along with commercial tax software companies provides Free File, a free federal tax preparation service offering e-file options for all taxpayers. If your adjusted gross income was $60,000 or under in 2014, you have the option to use their commercial software to do your taxes for free, or you can use Free File Fillable Forms. If your income was over $60,000, you can still use Free File Fillable Forms.
2. TurboTax Freedom Edition
You may have heard of Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, but you may not have known that the Intuit Financial Freedom Foundation offers free tax preparation and electronic filing for eligible individuals and families through the TurboTax Freedom Edition. Eligibility requirements are announced at the beginning of the tax season.
3. VITA and TCA Programs
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offers free basic tax return preparation and filing for qualified taxpayers who typically earn $53,000 or less, or are elderly, disabled, or otherwise require assistance in preparing their taxes.
The Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program offers similar services as VITA, but for all taxpayers (with an emphasis on taxpayers that are over 60 years of age).
Both the VITA and TCA programs are staffed by IRS certified volunteers. The IRS provides a VITA and TCA lookup tool to locate designated help sites near you.
4. Tax Software Free Federal File Editions
Popular tax software companies naturally tout their premium software offerings, but don’t jump at the hype unless your tax return requires it. Most tax software offers a free federal file edition for simple tax returns. Here are but a few options:
- TurboTax offers a Federal Free Edition for eligible taxpayers. Filing state tax requires an additional fee.
- H&R Block offers a Free edition for eligible taxpayers. Filing state tax requires an additional fee.
- My Free Taxes offers free federal and state filing for eligible taxpayers.
If you want to save time and money in tax preparation, there's an app for that. TurboTax SnapTax is a free mobile application (for iOS and Android) offering a free federal file service for eligible taxpayers. SnapTax allows you to snap a photo of your W-2 and then answer questions prior to filing. Filing state tax requires an additional fee.
1. Brokerage Discounts
To reward you for your loyal investments, some brokerage accounts save you a pretty penny on tax software. Fidelity and Vanguard offer promotions for their registered users to receive a $20 discount on TurboTax. Additionally, MerrillEdge offers its registered users a 15-20% off discount on TurboTax.
If you aren't eligible for a brokerage promotion, take heart—as readers of The Krazy Coupon Lady know, couponing always prevails! For TurboTax discounts, check out the excellent selection of Valpak TurboTax coupon offerings.
No Money Out-of-Pocket Option
Use your tax refund
If you receive a refund this tax season that exceeds your tax preparation fee, there's no need to dig further into your budget to pay for tax preparation. Proceed with tax filing and then allocate a portion of your refund to pay for your tax preparation fee. If you use TurboTax, the software gives you the option to use a portion of your refund to pay for TurboTax. Pay yourself back with the balance of the refund, and you may just start to enjoy tax season.