By Janne Huang
Tax time is right around the corner. A lot of people feel confused or intimidated and often turn to costly paid tax preparers for help. Luckily, there’s an alternative. VITA — Volunteer Income Tax Assistance — is a program sponsored by the IRS that provides FREE tax filing!
Here are six reasons to use free tax filing assistance.
1. It’s free, and paid preparers are expensive.
According to a survey by the National Society of Accountants, the average cost of professional tax preparation ranged from $159 to $273 in 2015! Some paid preparers avoid disclosing their fee until the end of the session or discreetly subtract their service charge from your total tax refund. Since there are no national standards or regulation of the tax preparation industry, it’s easy for some paid tax preparers to take advantage of their clients.
2. Volunteer tax preparers are accurate.
VITA volunteers are trained in tax law and certified each year by the IRS through a rigorous testing process. At the tax site, tax returns are always reviewed by a quality reviewer. (Unlike VITA volunteers, there are no rules requiring paid tax preparers to be certified!)
3. Volunteer tax preparers are committed to helping you.
Not only are volunteer tax preparers accurate, since they are volunteering their time, their only motive is to serve tax filers like you.
4. You can get more than just great free tax filing help.
With a refund on its way, tax season can be a great time to start saving money and building your assets. Many free tax prep sites connect tax filers to financial education resources and asset-building tools like free bank accounts, classes, and credit repair. Some locations also link taxpayers to other community services and public benefits year-round.
5. There are no hidden fees. (It really is free!)
Some commercial tax preparers try to make more money through Refund Anticipation Checks (RACs), which are an option for clients who don’t want to or cannot pay tax prep fees upfront. Preparers create a temporary bank account where the refund is deposited. They then subtract fees for both the prep service AND creating the account. When the taxpayer receives a check, it is often lower than the actual total refund. In addition to draining the value of your tax refund, RACs don’t get you your refund any faster: in fact, a taxpayer waiting for a refund through a RAC will get their money at the same speed as a taxpayer who used a free tax filing site and direct deposit.
6. It’s easy!
Enter your zip code here to find free tax prep in your area. Can’t find a location nearby? Taxpayers with income less than $60,000 can file their taxes for free online at MyFreeTaxes.com or IRS Free File.
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