How Seniors Can Get Free Tax Help

How Seniors Can Get Free Tax Help

It’s that time again – Uncle Sam is calling for what’s due. Whether you are getting a refund or having to shill out some of your hard-earned money to the IRS, sometimes the biggest problem is actually getting your tax return done. Depending upon your tax situation, including income from a small business, retirement fund, or even life insurance policies, you might have a much more complicated return. If you have extensive medical bills, that can be a game changer for your return, too. And while even the most basic return can be a hassle, a more complicated one can make life quite difficult in the run-up to April 15.

The good news is that there are many ways seniors can get free tax help. These programs offer help from seasoned tax professionals who can make short work of your return, find credits you didn’t know you could claim, and possibly reduce your tax liability.

Though it might be tough to reach out for help sometimes, it could be absolutely necessary to stay on top of your financial life. Just as you might reach for medical alert technology to protect you against the dire consequences of falls and other accidents, reaching out for help with your financial life can help you avoid nasty surprises later. Look at getting free tax help as a gift to yourself and your financial well-being.

Ready to settle up with Uncle Sam? Here are some good ways to do that.


Created by the AARP Foundation, Tax-Aide is the nation’s largest free tax filing program. It’s available to those who are aged 50 and older who have low to moderate income. The volunteers who provide the service are trained and certified by the Internal Revenue Service, so it’s safe to say they know their stuff.

Locations for Tax-Aide services open in early February of each year. You can visit the office in person or if there isn’t one nearby, you can visit them online. There are several ways to get assistance, including these options:

·        Drop-off. Simply drop your tax documents with a professional at the office, then come back later to go over your return, sign it, and make whatever arrangements are necessary to pay your tax bill or get your refund.

·        In person visits. You can go to the office to have your taxes prepared while you wait, scan the documents and send them in electronically and then go into the office to sign, or make two visits: one to scan the documents, then another after the tax professional has prepared your return.

·        Internet only. This requires no in-person visit. You can create digital copies of your tax documents, upload them to the software, and wait for a volunteer to prepare the return. Then they will send it back to you for your signature and other information.

There are also the options of coaching, which allows you to prepare your own return with help along the way from a tax professional, and self-preparation, which allows you to use the software provided through the website to handle everything on your own with no outside help.1

IRS Free File

If you make an adjusted gross income of $73,000 or less, the IRS will help you file your taxes for free. It’s called IRS Free File, and you can take advantage of this in two ways.

First, you can use software that is approved by the IRS, which guides you through the forms and allows you to send it all to the IRS electronically. As an added bonus, some state returns will also be free when you use this service.

The service is offered through several familiar names on behalf of the IRS, including TaxAct and

Second, you can opt for fillable forms. These can be downloaded for printing and completed offline, or you can complete them online to take advantage of the included calculators, then print out the documents and file them via the paper route. There is no professional tax help included with these forms. There are also no state forms included with this option. So why go with it? If you are more comfortable with filing paper returns and have a very simple return, this could be the best option for you.

It is very important to remember that while the partners who offer the tax filing might tout other options that cost something to complete, you can stick with the “Free File” option to make sure there are no charges as you go through the process.2

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance

Offered by the IRS and commonly known as VITA, this program has been around for over 50 years. VITA offers free tax help to individuals who need it, including those who make $60,000 or less per year, have disabilities, or limited ability to speak English. The professionals who help are often retired individuals who work for non-profit organizations and receive grants from the IRS to work on returns for free.3

Tax Counseling for the Elderly

Another one offered by the IRS, this program known as TCE has also been around for a long time. This help is specifically for those who are aged 60 and older (though some younger folks might qualify). The professionals who take part in this program are very well-versed in issues concerning pensions, retirement, social security, and other issues pertinent to the taxes of seniors.

As with the VITA program, you will usually speak with a retired tax professional who brings their many years of experience to bear on your tax situation.

To get started with either VITA or TCE, use this IRS Locator Tool to find a professional near you.4

IRS Tax Information for Seniors and Retirees

Do you want to handle your tax return yourself but need professional help to answer some questions? That’s where this handy page from the IRS comes in. It has a list of potential questions and where to find the answers, all devoted specifically to those who are retired or among the elderly population. Get help with a wide variety of tax information, including life insurance policies, pensions and annuities, civil service retirement income, social security, credits you might qualify for, and more.5

And though this doesn’t offer free tax filing, if you get in over your head and decide you do need a professional to help you, this page will assist you in finding one.

Area Agencies on Aging

Though it’s not traditional tax help from the IRS, your local Area Agency on Aging can provide you with assistance in filing taxes or finding free and low-cost options. Some senior centers in your area might provide sessions with tax professionals that are free of charge and offered on behalf of the local community. These sessions can help you with basic tax preparation but might not be able to help with more advanced issues – however, they can refer you to someone who can take on your more complicated tax return.6

To find your local Area Agency on Aging, visit the Eldercare Locator.

Tips to Prepare for Filing Your Income Tax

Whether you are meeting with a tax professional in person or online, there are some things you will need to have ready when you show up for the appointment:

·        All identifying information, including your home address and a government-issued photo ID.

·        All tax paperwork you have for the current year, including proof of your income from all sources, such as retirement funds or life insurance proceeds.

·        Information on your social security benefits.

·        Paperwork concerning anything that has impacted your financial situation over the past year, from the death of a spouse to getting a new insurance policy to having high medical bills. And this can include everything, such as the miles you put on your vehicle (yes, you could get reimbursed for that). Ask if you can write off a medical alert pendant (when it comes to tax breaks, every little bit of help can add up fast); in certain situations, this may be possible. A tax pro can let you know what can and cannot qualify and under what conditions.

·        A copy of your tax return from the prior year.

·        Information on any dependents (this might be helpful for those grandparents who serve as guardians for their grandchildren).

·        Banking information to provide to the IRS. You might need this for either a refund or for paying your tax bill.

Everyone knows that tax time can be a headache. But just as you do things in your day-to-day life to make things easier on yourself, from keeping doctor’s appointments to getting more exercise to keeping track of your daily prescriptions with a medication organizer, reminder, and dispenser, reaching out for help with your taxes is just another way to take good care of yourself. After all, your financial life matters! Use these resources to stay on top of your tax situation and know what you owe (or what you’ll get back). Alert1 wishes you health and happiness!