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Published: Apr 11, 2022 10 min read
Illustration of letters spelling out  HELP  wrapped in an IRS tax form
Rangely García / Money

With tax season underway and deadlines looming, many Americans are once again scrambling to file their tax returns. While filing taxes can be annoying and confusing, the IRS offers a variety of tools and programs to help taxpayers file their taxes accurately and on time.

Read on to learn more about these programs and resources, which the IRS offers free of charge.

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How to get free tax help from the IRS

The IRS provides free tax help through various in-person and online initiatives. For example, qualified taxpayers can prepare and e-file their returns for free using the IRS Free File program, while the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs allow certain taxpayers to receive in-person assistance with tax return preparation, free of charge.

IRS Free File

The IRS Free File program is a collaboration between the agency and private tax preparation and filing software companies such as ezTaxReturn and FreeTaxUSA.

While these companies normally charge for the computer programs that allow you to file your taxes electronically, the IRS Free File program allows certain individuals to access these services for free.

Taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes (AGI) under $73,000 can access guided tax preparation tools and get walked through filing their taxes step by step, while those with AGIs over $73,000 can access fillable tax forms and complete them independently free of charge.

Check out our guide on how to file taxes for free to read about alternatives to the Free File Program.

Links and contact information:

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Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program is one of the IRS’s two in-person, free basic tax return preparation programs. VITA offers help to:

  • People who generally make $58,000 or less
  • People with disabilities
  • Limited English-speaking taxpayers

The VITA program is overseen by the IRS but is operated entirely by IRS-certified volunteers at physical locations throughout the country. VITA volunteers undergo training that meets or exceeds IRS requirements, which makes the program an excellent cost-free resource for many individuals.

You can read Publication 3676-B for a list of services offered at VITA sites, including assistance with state tax refunds, reporting unemployment benefits and gambling winnings. You can also access a checklist of required documents (government-issued ID, Social Security card or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, etc.) that you must bring with you during your visit.

Links and contact information:

Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE)

The Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program is the second of the IRS’s two in-person, free basic tax return preparation programs. It tackles all of the tax questions and issues that VITA handles (including concerns about the child tax credit and earned income tax credit) but focuses on individuals aged 60 and older.

The TCE program helps answer tax questions about topics such as pensions and other retirement-related issues like Social Security benefits in addition to offering tax return preparation assistance.

A majority of TCE sites are operated by the AARP Foundation’s Tax Aide program, and they’re open from January to April.

Links and contact information:

Armed Forces Tax Council (AFTC)

According to the Defense Department’s Office of Financial Readiness, “the Armed Forces Tax Council oversees the operation of VITA and military tax programs worldwide and acts as the main channel for IRS outreach to service members and their families.”

While military members can go to any VITA location accessible to civilians, the AFTC ensures that they also have access to VITA program services in many U.S. military installations around the world.

Military members can find a VITA location using the VITA site locator tool or by visiting the following link:

Interactive Tax Assistant (ITA)

The ITA is a tool that can answer several tax code questions specific to your individual circumstances. The way it accomplishes this is by giving you a long list of topics which you can then provide specific answers for and narrow down an answer.

The list is divided into categories to make it easier to find a relevant topic. The categories include:

  • Filing Requirement, Form to Use, Due Date
  • Filing Status and Dependents
  • Retirement: Pensions, IRAs, Social Security
  • Other Income
  • Deductions
  • Credits
  • International
  • Additional Topics

Where’s my refund?

The Where's My Refund? tool allows you to check on the status of your tax refund. By providing the IRS with basic information such as your Social Security number or ITIN, your filing status and the exact amount of your refund, the agency can give you an update on your refund’s current status.

The tool can be accessed both through and the IRS2GO mobile app. Expect to wait a minimum of 24 hours after you file your tax return online or four weeks after sending it through the mail to see any updates.

If there’s a delay in processing your return, you should only contact the IRS if the Where's My Refund? tool tells you to — or if it’s been 21 days since e-filing your tax return. The agency will contact you via mail if it needs more information.

IRS2GO app

The IRS offers a mobile app that allows you to track your refund status, make payments and more.

The IRS2GO app also helps you find free online tax preparation assistance. If you prefer receiving help in-person, you can use the app to find a VITA or TCE site near you. IRS2GO is available in English and Spanish. The app is available for Android and iOS.

Like many other government agencies, the IRS has its own website where you can find information on a wide range of tax topics and initiatives. For example, you can find out if you qualify for the child tax credit by using the Child Tax Credit Update Portal.

You can also read about the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which helps low- to moderate-income workers and families get a tax break. The website offers a brief questionnaire you can fill out to determine your eligibility.

Besides the educational resources mentioned here, you can also use the IRS site to file your federal taxes or make corrections to any tax forms you may have already submitted. Many of the programs and assistance options (ITA, Where’s My Refund?, etc.) described in previous sections can also be found throughout the website.

IRS telephone assistance

The IRS provides different phone numbers that you can call for assistance on a variety of tax-related topics. You can speak with a live representative 24/7, order tax forms for the current and prior tax years, or listen to over 100 pre-recorded messages.

Summary of Money’s Guide on IRS Tax Help

Taxpayers in need of free tax assistance can use the IRS’s many tools and resources (such as the Free File program and its Interactive Tax Assistant) to get answers to tax questions on topics such as the child tax credit, tax brackets, pensions and investment income. The IRS also offers free options for both in-person and online filing.

If you’re interested in guided tax preparation but have an AGI that limits your free file options, you can check out our guide to the best tax software to choose a program that suits your needs.

If you’re struggling with tax debt from previous tax years, you can read through our guide to the best tax relief companies. These companies are staffed by tax professionals who can help you negotiate tax debt payment options with the IRS.