Get Tax Filing Help Without The Huge Fee
For many, filing taxes does not need to cost a fortune. NY1's Tara Lynn Wagner explains in the following Money Matters Report.
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Unless you sit down and do your taxes the old-fashioned way -- with pen, paper and calculator -- chances are you're probably going to encounter some filing fees.
Hiring a professional, for instance, can set you back a few hundred dollars, depending on the complexity of your tax return.
“All tax returns are different. Some are more complicated. Some are simpler. Some have state. Some have more complicated life changes: I got married, I got divorced, I had a child,” explains Mark Steber of Jackson Hewitt Tax Service. “There's more that goes into it than making a simple hamburger.”
But even if you go it alone, there may still be some out-of-pocket costs.
TurboTax software can be purchased for about $50 or obtained online for free, but prices can vary based on your personal situation.
“We start with free, TurboTax Free Edition is absolutely free to those who qualify,” says TurboTax Vice President Bob Meighan. “And for those people who have more complex return, it goes all the way up to, you know, $89. So, that's federal and state, including your federal electronic filing.”
Turbo Tax is not the only no-cost option available online. In fact, the federal government offers a similar deal called Free File. Taxpayers earning less than $57,000 a year can go to IRS.gov, where more than 20 software companies offer free, simple software that asks a series of questions, then completes the necessary forms.
For those making more than $57,000, the Internal Revenue Service also offers Free File Fillable Forms, which just like the old paper forms, require taxpayers to plug in their own information and do a little math.
However, for those who prefer face-to-face contact but can't afford the face-to-face fee, there's the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program. There are 12,000 sites nationwide, including one at Baruch College, where trained volunteers act as pro-bono certified professional accountants, offering free prep services, along with peace of mind.
“There are a lot of questions that if you are not familiar with taxes, it's hard to answer,” says VITA Site Manager Shilpa Raghavan. “So when you come in and sit down with someone who knows what they are doing, we have reference materials that we can look up readily available to us, and it's easier when you have a face-to-face interaction.”
The free service is only available to people who earn less than $49,000 and who are filing a relatively-simple tax return.
“The most complex return that we do can cost about $200 if they go to a preparer, but if they come to us it’s free,” VITA Program Coordinator Diana Liang says. “So they should just come to us.”
To find a VITA site near you, call 800-906-9887.