FREE Tax Filing Help — January 2012, reviewed January 2013

The Center on Budget Policy and Priorities estimates commercial charges for most low-to moderate-income tax filers averages $100.  In addition, knowing filers would like to get their money back fast, commercial tax preparers may persuade the customer to get their refund by refund anticipation check. The check will be a stored value card (like a gift card) and fees will add to the cost of filing. 

Those with low-to-moderate incomes can file their taxes for free in a couple ways.  One way is directly online.  Free tax filing software is available from both the Internal Revenue Service website (www.irs.gov) and the Minnesota Department of Revenue (www.revenue.state.mn.gov) website.  There is no need to purchase the software if your income is below the moderate level.  Check these out.

Another way to get assistance is through Tax Aide and VITA sites.  VITA stands for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance.  Volunteers are trained, according to IRS guidelines, to fill out basic tax forms including the ones to claim the Earned Income Credit and Child Tax Credit.  They need to pass a test to prove their skills in helping with the most common tax forms used.

There is no charge for these services.  Most of these sites offer electronic filing which helps the tax refund come faster.

You can find a VITA or Tax Aide site near you by calling United Way’s 211 information line.  If calling from a cell phone the number is 651-291-0211. Online tax help locaters are available on both the IRS website (www.irs.gov ) and the Minnesota Department of Revenue (www.revenue.state.mn.us ) websites.  Free tax assistance sites open the end of January. Once people have received all the W-2’s and 1099’s needed for filing a return, they are ready to help.