Personal finance

5 Ways to File Your Taxes for Free This Season

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  • The federal tax deadline is only six weeks away, and if you haven’t filed yet, you may qualify for free preparation.
  • There are several free filing options to consider, depending on your income, age, location and occupation.

The April 18 federal tax deadline is only six weeks away, and if you haven't filed yet, you may qualify for free preparation.

While many prefer a paid preparer, free filing options may be worth exploring for simple returns, such as filings with only a couple of W-2 forms, for example.

The IRS is reopening taxpayer assistance centers on March 11, and while these offices don't offer tax preparation, they can direct you to free local options, the agency announced this week.

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Here are five free tax filing options to consider, based on your income, age, location, occupation and more.

1. IRS Free File

IRS Free File offers free online guided tax preparation for your federal tax returns and some state filings if your adjusted gross income was $73,000 or less in 2022. 

The program is a partnership between the IRS and several private tax software companies, meaning you can browse providers or use the agency's lookup tool to find the best match based on location, income and other factors. 

While most filers are eligible, few currently use the service. Although 70% of taxpayers qualify for IRS Free File, only 2% used it during the 2022 filing season, according to the National Taxpayer Advocate.

"It's a good option for those who have simple returns, don't need ongoing tax planning advice and could benefit financially from the free service," Judy Brown, a certified financial planner at SC&H Group in the Washington and Baltimore area, previously told CNBC.

2. Volunteer Income Tax Assistance

Operating for more than 50 years, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, or VITA, provides free in-person electronic tax preparation in locations such as community centers, libraries, schools and more throughout the country.

You may qualify for the service if you generally earned $60,000 or less, have a disability or have limited English proficiency, according to the Taxpayer Advocate Service. You can plug your ZIP code into this tool to find providers near you. 

Thilan Kiridena, a CFP and founder of Capital Elements in New York, said VITA volunteers can handle tax-related questions, but may not be able to tackle complex returns.

3. Tax prep for older Americans

Older Americans may also qualify for free in-person and virtual tax help through the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program.

While the service targets low- to moderate-income filers ages 50 and older, it's open to filers of all ages with less complicated returns. You can find a location through the AARP Tax-Aide website.

The program works with VITA and Tax Counseling for the Elderly, or TCE, which also provides free tax preparation for those who qualify.

4. MilTax

Another free option, MilTax, is a program for service members, qualifying veterans, family members and more, provided by the U.S. Department of Defense.

The service includes tax preparation and filing software, along with personalized guidance. Eligible taxpayers can use MilTax for electronic federal returns and up to three state filings for free, according to the IRS.

"MilTax is a great resource for military families as it understands the nuances of the different types of military pay," said Desiree Kaul, a CFP at Main Street Planning in Satellite Beach, Florida.

5. Free Fillable Forms

If your adjusted gross income is above $73,000 and you don't qualify for the other options, you may also consider Free Fillable Forms for current year federal returns.

The program is similar to filing paper returns online, without software or guidance. You can learn more about Free Fillable Forms here.

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