prepare taxes for freeTax season doesn’t excite many people other than the accountants and tax preparers making money off taxpayers. It’s expensive to file taxes, but it doesn’t have to be. The FREE way to file your taxes. It really does work!

Free File your taxes

If your return is basic, there are ways to prepare your taxes for free. If you don’t qualify for the free programs, the cost is minimal. Expect to pay less than $50 if you do them yourself. Filing your taxes doesn’t have to break the bank. There is free software you can use, or you can have a volunteer file your taxes if you qualify.

The IRS has Free File programs which allow you to prepare your taxes for free online if you make $64,000 or less.  Some companies set age and income limitations, so make sure you read the rules of every program to find the one that works for you.

While it’s called Free File, you need to read the fine print on the individual company you choose. It’s only free to file your federal return, and some sites charge you a high fee to file your state return. Click here for the list of Free File companies or let the IRS help you find one that fits your personal situation.

Even if you don’t qualify for Free File, the companies who offer Free File options also offer low prices to all taxpayers. Read reviews on the software provider you choose so you know if other taxpayers are happy with the services.

Don’t let the fine print deter you from choosing Free File. These software programs really do save you money.

Over the years, I’ve had taxpayers test the software. Taxpayers with basic returns often find the $10 software programs easy to use. When an accountant checked the return for accuracy, they found few mistakes.

It just takes a little research. Invest 15 minutes finding the best software provider for your situation, and you could save hundreds of dollars on tax preparation fees.

In 2017, if you claim the Child Tax Credit there may be a delay getting your refund especially if you file early.

File your taxes securely

If you file your own taxes, do it securely. Be careful emailing it to yourself, as you’ll create a footprint for that tax return. Don’t believe me? Watch this story.

Also, be careful of FTP. That’s a file sharing system, that accountants use. If the FTP site is not secure, you may be sharing your personal tax information with the world.

Finally, go to your browser’s settings and make sure it’s set to private browsing so you don’t leave a digital footprint online.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance

The IRS offers a service called VITA or Volunteer Income Tax Assistance for anyone making $51,000 or less. The volunteers prepare your taxes for free. I used it when I started working. While it’s a good service, you should be careful. The tax volunteers are trained to fill out simple returns.

Be careful if you have income from more than one source like a freelance job. My taxes were done wrong for several years, before anyone caught the mistake. I fixed the mistakes myself. It’s not easy to make the adjustments. In my case, the volunteer didn’t calculate the taxes properly for freelance income. The error was duplicated year after year because the volunteers rely on the previous year’s return. In the end, I owed only a few dollars more but I spent hours fixing the error.

VITA is a great program and service, and works for most taxpayers. I still saved money despite the headache fixing the mistakes. However, proceed with caution if you are making ends meet with multiple sources of income. Remember, these are volunteers.

This error happened during the days of paper filing. Perhaps it would’ve been caught with computer software.