Tax season makes most of use feel like hiding under a rock, but professionals from the IRS down to H&R Block are here to help.
A range of free services offered by the federal government, professional associations, advocacy groups, financial firms and accountants can give Americans the confidence to begin the potentially daunting process of filing their tax returns. Here’s an overview of available services:
• The AICPA has launched a new public service website to help taxpayers better understand how the federal tax system works. The AICPA, or American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, has developed 360Taxes.org to provide a place people can go to for “free, plain-English answers to their most common tax questions.” The website is an extension of the AICPA’s 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy program.
• The IRS provides current information about the nation’s constantly changing tax codes. You can search the websites for new rules on tax credits ranging from deductions for college tuition and teachers’ out-of-pocket expenses. “Top 10 Tax Time Tips” from the IRS include checking out IRS Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax, which highlights everything taxpayers need to know when filing their returns. Taxpayers earning $58,000 or less qualify for free tax software called FreeFile.
• The website of the advocacy group AARP gives tax tips aimed at helping retirees and Americans nearing retirement. Advice includes state tax rules regarding pension distributions and Social Security benefits. The AARP Foundation also offers a free Tax-Aide program to low- and moderate-income taxpayers with special attention to people 60 and older. Tax-Aide locations can be found in every state and the District of Columbia.
• Tax tips can also be gleaned from the self-regulatory group FINRA, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. Advice includes suggestions for creating more tax-efficient portfolios.
• Even the world’s largest tax services provider, H&R Block, gives free tax tips at its website.
• If anxiety is the primary obstacle to filing taxes, investors can always visit the TaxMama, who promises “Tax Information with a Mother’s Touch.” Also known as Eva Rosenberg, a tax expert and syndicated columnist, the TaxMama’s crusades to “remove the fear of taxes from the public consciousness.”