Keep your whole refund: File taxes for FREE!

Filing a tax return is an annual necessity for most Americans, and to a lot of people it feels complicated. That’s why they pay someone else to do the work for them.  It’s just like how I pay someone else to work on my car, because I don’t have the needed knowledge or skills.

Even if you are not highly skilled, however, it may be possible for  you to get your tax return filed for free! The IRS trains and certifies volunteer tax preparers through VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) and through AARP. Volunteers have to pass several tests in order to serve. If you have moderate or low income and if your return is fairly ordinary in complexity, you may be eligible to have those volunteers file your return for you.

To find a free tax site near you, call 211 or go to and search by zip code! Most people can file through the VITA or AARP programs if they have income from a job, pension, social security, investments and other typical sources. The tax volunteers will also make sure you get the tax credits and deductions you are entitled to.

There are a few types of tax issues volunteers are not allowed to address, including: rental income; farm income; certain types of business income (if you need to use depreciation, or deduct business use of your home, or if you keep an inventory of products or supplies).

Another way to file your tax return for free is through IRS Free File. This lets you do it yourself on-line using user-friendly commercial software.  You don’t need to be a tax expert to do this, either!

Whether or not you expect a tax refund, if your tax situation is not too complicated, it’s smart to think twice before  you pay $150 – $400 to have someone else do your taxes for you!

What have been your most positive experiences with filing your tax return?

Barb Wollan

Barb Wollan's goal as a Family Finance program specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is to help people use their money according to THEIR priorities. She provides information and tools, and then encourages folks to focus on what they control: their own decisions about what to do with the money they have.

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