Free tax assistance available in many forms

Filing your taxes doesn't have to break the bank. You can take advantage of a number of free filing and assistance options available this season:

Paper Returns. If you're a taxpayer with a simple return -- or just a traditionalist at heart -- you can complete a paper return. To order a paper tax form by phone, call 1-800-829-3676.

You can order up to 10 different forms online to be delivered by U.S. mail. You'll receive two copies of any form you order; instructions are automatically included with your order. Normally, you should allow 7 to 15 days for processing and delivery, but in January, expect delays. If you need forms immediately, you can download tax forms from the IRS Web site.

Fill-In Forms
. If you're comfortable preparing your own return, you can use free online tax forms and file electronically using an electronic version of the IRS paper forms -- the forms look just like blank IRS forms. There are no income limitations, and the most commonly filed tax forms and schedules are included. Fill-in forms will perform basic math (like adding income that you input) but won't actually calculate your tax due or complicated transactions such as depreciation schedules.


Free Tax Software. Many providers now offer basic tax preparation software for free. Some of the most popular software packages are available from TurboTax, TaxAct and H&R Block. Generally, free filing is available for the most basic returns, such as forms 1040-EZ. Charges apply for more complicated returns or additional schedules.

Free File. Free File is a partnership between the IRS and the Free File Alliance LLC, a group of private sector tax software companies. With Free File, you can use free tax preparation software and free online filing for taxpayers with adjusted gross income (AGI) of $57,000 or less in 2009. You can choose a company from the list of participating companies or ask the IRS to help you find a preparer using the FreeFile wizard.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)
. If you qualify, you can walk into a VITA center and get your return prepared by an IRS volunteer. The VITA Program offers free tax help to low- to moderate-income (generally $49,000 and below) taxpayers who cannot prepare their own tax returns: most locations also offer free electronic filing. To locate the nearest VITA site, call 1-800-829-1040.

Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE). The TCE Program provides free tax help to people 60 and older. TCE programs rely on volunteers, which means the level of returns that can be prepared is generally basic. For more information on TCE, call 1-800-829-1040.

Tax-Aide Counseling. As part of the TCE Program, AARP offers the Tax-Aide counseling program at more than 7,000 sites nationwide. Tax-Aide is the nation's largest free, volunteer tax assistance and preparation service. It's available to low- and moderate-income taxpayers over the age of 60. To locate the nearest AARP Tax-Aide site, call 1-888-227-7669 or visit AARP's web site.

Armed Forces Tax Council (AFTC). The AFTC offers free tax preparation assistance, including free advice and preparation to military personnel and their families as part of VITA. Volunteers are trained and equipped to address military specific tax issues, such as combat zone tax benefits. For more information, call 1-800-829-1040.

For free tax advice regardless of age, income or occupation, you can call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 or visit the IRS Web site at www.irs.gov. Content is also available in Spanish by clicking the "Español" tab on the site.

Of course, for all of the latest tax news and advice this season, check back with WalletPop!

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