While the large refund check might help, it’s no wonder why many Americans dread tax season. According to the IRS, American individuals and businesses cumulatively spend as many as 6.1 billion hours1 filing their taxes each year. As if that wasn’t bad enough, a study conducted by the agency found that Americans spend a total of $31.7 billion on accountant fees2 or software for the purpose of paying their taxes.
To be sure, filing taxes isn’t the easiest task in the world. Given our complicated tax code, numerous forms and constant regulation additions or changes, an individual’s tax returns can go from a breeze to a headache very quickly. Unfortunately, the tax code probably isn’t going to change this any time soon. The good news is, there are numerous options for people looking for assistance with filing. By taking advantage of these tools, taxpayers can save time, money and a good deal of stress by making sure they are not only filing their taxes correctly, but also getting the most out of their returns. Most of these options depend on your adjusted gross income, which is the total amount of all your W-2s added together.
If you made $31,000 or less last year
In this income bracket, your taxes are unlikely to be overly complicated. You can make things even easier by looking into a free tax software like TurboTax Freedom Edition, which is available to taxpayers with $31,000 or less in AGI. Active duty military making less than $62,000 in 2015 or those who qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit can also use this service free of charge. The software, accessible via a web browser, will take you through common income scenarios to help you file accurately and get the most reasonable return possible.
If you made $54,000 or less
For taxpayers in this income range, the IRS offers free, in-person assistance for tax preparation through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.3 These volunteers are trained to handle the most common income scenarios and deductions. They also offer service for foreign language speakers depending on the location. Once you find a location, be sure to bring a copy of all W-2s and 1099s for 2015, as well as any other documents required for deductions or credits and proof of identification such as a Social Security card. Also, both members of a married couple filing jointly will need to be present.
If you made $72,000 or less (plus some other requirements)
In this income range, the IRS has recommended several free file options4 that you may be able to take advantage of. These options have a number of different requirements that must be met beyond income, including age and the state you are filing in.
If you are a confident tax filer
Of course, you can always get access to whichever form you need and file for free regardless of your income, age or location via the IRS. As long as you know the basics of tax preparation and have everything in order, you should be all set to file.
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1IRS. (2013, Jan 9). Retrieved from: https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/national-taxpayer-advocate-delivers-annual-report-to-congress-focuses-on-tax-reform-irs-funding-and-identity-theft
2Federal Register. (2014, Apr 30). Retrieved from: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2014/04/30/2014-09819/proposed-collection-comment-request-for-form-1040-and-schedules-a-b-c-c-ez-d-e-eic-f-h-j-r-and-se#h-9
3IRS. Retrieved from: https://www.irs.gov/individuals/free-tax-return-preparation-for-qualifying-taxpayers
4IRS. Retrieved from: https://apps.irs.gov/app/freeFile/