Most people dread tax season. Filing tends to be a long and confusing process, the tax laws are always changing, and it’s troubling not knowing if you’re going to end up owing more money to the government or wind up with a tax refund check.
Even those with relatively simple financial situations usually prefer some guidance when it comes to filing their taxes. Retirement, government benefits, increasing health care costs and other financial changes can make this process especially complicated for seniors. Fortunately, more and more helpful resources are becoming available to American taxpayers. Whether you’ve hit a roadblock while trying to prepare your own taxes or need assistance filing on behalf of an aging loved one, it’s likely you can find the help you need on the list of resources below.
Free Tax Programs for Seniors
AARP Foundation Tax-Aide
The AARP Foundation provides the nation’s largest volunteer-run tax assistance and preparation service available to all, with special attention given to low- and moderate-income taxpayers and those age 50 and older. All AARP volunteers are trained and certified by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Tax-Aide provides both in-person and virtual tax assistance through April 15, 2021. (The Treasury Department and IRS have extended the federal income tax filing and tax payment due date for individuals for the 2020 tax year to May 17, 2021, and Tax-Aide may reevaluate their program dates. Keep in mind that this extension does not apply to state tax returns and payments or estimated federal tax payments due on April 15.) However, Tax-Aide services are only available by appointment this year. Due to fluctuating COVID-19 conditions and volunteer capacity, the availability of in-person Tax-Aide services in local communities is subject to change on short notice.
Through Tax-Aide, seniors also have the option to prepare their own taxes online with the help of a tax counselor or entirely on their own using free tax-filing software.
To find tax help locations near you, make an appointment or learn more about this program, visit the 2021 AARP Foundation Tax-Aide Service website.
IRS Tax Help Programs
The IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program is available to taxpayers who generally make $57,000 or less, persons with disabilities, and taxpayers who speak limited English. The IRS also offers a free Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) Program for all taxpayers, particularly those who are age 60 and older. VITA and TCE volunteers are IRS-certified and these sites are open from February through April.
It is worth noting that there is some crossover between the TCE program and the AARP Tax-Aide program. Nonprofit organizations (such as the AARP Foundation) receive grants from the IRS to provide free tax counseling to their local community members.
Unfortunately, during the 2021 tax filing season, some VITA and TCE tax sites are operating at limited capacity while others are not opening at all. The IRS offers many other online resources and tax help tools, including IRS Free File.
To learn more about VITA and TCE, find an open site near you, or explore other IRS tools and publications, visit the IRS website.
IRS Tax Information for Elders
For those who are simply looking for information on what types of retirement income are taxable or the eligibility requirements for certain tax deductions and credits, the IRS has your back. Visit the IRS’ Tax Information for Seniors & Retirees site for tax answers that apply specifically to older adults and retired individuals.
Area Agencies on Aging
There are Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) serving seniors in communities across the United States. AAAs offer an array of services, benefits and information to help support seniors and family caregivers. Since IRS and AARP tax help appointments are filling up quickly at sites across the country, you may need to look into alternate sources of assistance. Try contacting your AAA to see if there are other free or low-cost tax preparation resources available in your local community.
Before showing up to any free tax preparation location, check if you need to make an appointment first. Typically, some sites offer assistance on a walk-in basis, but many are requiring pre-set appointments this year to ensure social distancing and other COVID-19 safety protocols are enforced. Be sure to bring all necessary tax documents and information for the volunteers to help you. The IRS publishes a checklist of things taxpayers should bring to their income tax return preparation sites here.