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Finding Free Tax Help

Taxpayers with simple returns have several new ways to file without having to pay for help.


The average cost for having an accountant prepare a Form 1040 with a Schedule A and a state tax return was $233 in 2011, up 1.7% from 2009, according to the National Society of Accountants. But the options for free tax help are growing. The Internal Revenue Service, for instance, offers Free File, a program that offers free tax-preparation software and other tools for taxpayers with low and moderate-income.  Through the IRS site, taxpayers who make $57,000 or less can answer a few questions about their income, location and whether they qualify for certain credits

to pull up a list of companies that offers free tax preparation software, including TaxSlayer, H&R Block and The IRS also offers Fillable Forms, electronic versions of IRS tax forms, for people who are comfortable calculating their own taxes.

Some tax prep companies are setting up shop inside stores to give people free tax help as they pick up clothes and laundry detergent. Walmart , for example, is working with Jackson Hewitt and H&R Block to set up 3,000 tax preparation kiosks at its stores across the U.S. Jackson Hewitt will offer free federal form 1040EZ filing at Walmart up until the April 17 tax deadline and H&R Block will offer similar free help until Feb. 29.

In addition to the Free File program, the IRS also offers free tax help on the phone and in-person around the country for seniors, people with disabilities and non-English speakers.  Last tax season more than 88,000 volunteers helped prepare more than 3 million tax returns for free, according to the IRS.

But tax experts warn that filers may still find themselves with a bill if their tax returns aren’t as basic as anticipated. For instance, while some of the companies offering services through Free File will also offer free state tax return preparation, other companies will charge$30 or more per form. People with other complications, say a couple who just had a child, bought a home or is filing several deductions and credits, may not qualify for the 1040EZ and might be better off paying for professional help to make sure they don’t miss out on any big tax breaks, says Gene King, a spokesman for H&R Block. “The advantages could mean thousands of dollars for certain taxpayers,” says King.


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About The Tax Blog

  • The Tax Blog brings together a team of award-winning tax journalists from the Dow Jones network and around the web to examine the tax issues, changes and legislation that affect families, investors and small business owners. Our contributors include Tax Report columnist Laura Saunders (WSJ), Tax Guy columnist Bill Bischoff and senior reporter Jilian Mincer (, retirement-focused reporter Anne Tergesen (WSJ), wealth management writer Arden Dale (Dow Jones Newswires), TaxWatch columnist Eva Rosenberg and personal finance reporter Andrea Coombes (MarketWatch), and reporter Alyssa Abkowitz (SmartMoney). They’ll provide the latest news and insight, mine the tax code for tips and loopholes, and answer your questions about tricky tax situations. Contact the The Tax Blog with ideas, suggestions or tax questions at