Seniors and retirees should know that they may be able to use online tax preparation software free of charge. Most low- and middle-income Americans qualify for the free help, but do not take advantage of it. And all seniors are eligible for free counseling assistance from the IRS.
The tax preparation software industry has had a decades-long deal with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to make free versions of its software available to low- and middle-income individuals. However, a report by ProPublica in April 2019 revealed that the software companies were making it difficult for customers to find the free tax filing software, including going so far as to hide it from a Google search. According to the IRS’s Taxpayer Advocate Service, around 70 percent of taxpayers qualified for free filing, but only 1.6 percent used the free software in 2018. The IRS has now amended its agreement with the software industry to bar the companies from hiding the free products.
The IRS Free File website links to the available free products. Each company sets its own eligibility standards based on income, age, and state residency. As long as your adjusted gross income was $69,000 or less, you will find at least one free product to use. There are also two products that are in Spanish.
If you would rather not prepare your own tax return, seniors can use the IRS’s Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program. The TCE program is available to taxpayers who are 60 years old or older and specializes in answering questions about pensions and retirement plans.