It’s tax-filing season, and whether you go to an accountant or use online tax software, filing a return can be expensive. But there are free options.
The typical fee for preparing a basic Form 1040 is $220, according to the National Society of Accountants, a membership group representing tax professionals in small and medium-size firms. But costs vary by region. You’ll usually pay more on the coasts.
For many low- and moderate-income filers, that’s a steep price that eats into their tax refunds. And many filers use that refund to make important purchases or pay down debt. The average federal refund is about $2,800, according to the Internal Revenue Service. And more than half of filers earning less than $30,000 a year seek professional tax preparation help.
Fortunately, there are free options to help people prepare and file their tax returns. Many have age or income limits, but some are available to anyone.
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“The tax codes are complicated,” said Lisa Marsh Ryerson, president of AARP Foundation, the charitable arm of the advocacy group for older Americans AARP. The foundation runs volunteer tax preparation sites focused on people 50 and older and those with low or moderate incomes through its Tax-Aide program.
“Far too many people pay too much to have their taxes prepared, or are missing out on refunds and credits,” she said.