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Get Free Tax Filing Assistance

young man freaking over his taxes...you  can get free tax filing assistance from numerous sources.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. Beginning in 2011, paper tax forms will no longer be mailed out automatically. If you filed by paper in 2010 without the aid of a paid preparer or tax software, you should have received a postcard in early October 2010 explaining how to get the tax forms and instructions for your 2010 return.

To order a free 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 seven to 15 days for processing and delivery, but if you order in January, expect delays.

If you need forms immediately, you can download tax forms and instructions for free from the IRS website.Fill-In Forms. If you're comfortable preparing your own return, you can use free online fill-in 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. Forms are expected to be available as of Jan. 14, 2011.

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

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 $58,000 or less in 2010. Free File is expected to launch for the 2010 tax year on Jan. 14, 2011.

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 website.

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 website 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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What Are the Tax Penalties for Smokers?

Starting in 2014, the Individual Shared Responsibility provision of the Affordable Care Act made you responsible for having minimum essential coverage, or MEC, in health insurance. Otherwise, you need to be eligible for a health care exemption, or you could pay a penalty when filing your income tax return. This requirement for minimum essential coverage applies to smokers and nonsmokers alike. If you're not covered by an employer's health plan and are a smoker, you can go to the health care marketplace to find MEC. If you're still unable to comply, you may have a penalty applied.

5 Steps to Navigate the Healthcare Marketplaces

To navigate the Health Insurance Marketplace, you have to know what you want from a health plan. Have your previous plan handy to make comparisons, as well as household and income information. If this is your first health plan, be aware of your needs and know your tax situation. Eligibility depends on the size of your family and combined income from all sources.

What Is Form 8941: Credit for Small Employer Health Insurance Premiums

Small business owners who subsidize the cost of employee health insurance premiums may be able to get some of that money back by claiming the credit for small employer health insurance premiums on their taxes. Some of the eligibility requirements, however, limit the number of people a business can employ and the average annual wages they earn. Qualifying as a small employer can reduce your tax bill by the amount of the credit you report on Form 8941.

What Is Form 8911: Alternative Fuel Vehicle Refueling Property Credit

In light of rising gasoline prices and environmental concerns, consumers have become more receptive to buying cars and trucks that run on types of fuel other than gasoline. The U.S. government introduced a tax incentive to encourage the installation of facilities to store or dispense alternative fuels in 1992. That incentive has evolved into a tax credit that also applies to equipment that recharges electric cars. If you equipped your home or business to accommodate alternative fuel vehicles, you may be able to use Form 8911: Alternative Fuel Vehicle Refueling Property Credit to reduce your federal tax obligation.

What Is Form 8885: Health Coverage Tax Credit

The health coverage tax credit is a program in place for tax years from 2002 to 2013 to help eligible individuals and families by paying a portion of premiums for qualified health insurance programs. Since the legislation authorizing the credit expired in January 2014, tax returns filed in 2014 for the 2013 tax year represent the last time eligible taxpayers can claim the credit.

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