Save on tax preparation fees

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In the South Atlantic states (DE, DC, FL, GA, MD, NC, SC, VA, WV) the average tax prep fee for an Itemized Form 1040 with schedule A and a state tax return is $268. That’s the third highest in the country after Pacific and Mid-Atlantic states, according to data from the National Society of Accountants.

If your taxes are more complex — if you have a business or tax exemption, for example — you’ll pay more, naturally, but did you know that of 67 percent of tax preparers increase fees an average of $114 for disorganized and/or incomplete paperwork?

For these reasons and more, many people choose to do their own taxes. If you’re dealing with relatively simple returns, you can probably file them for free. Here are a few options to consider:

Free File Program:  The Free File Alliance: The Free File Alliance, a coalition of 14 industry-leading tax software companies, has partnered with the IRS since 2003 to help low and middle-income Americans prepare, complete and file their federal tax returns. They work with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), to offer tax prep help with federal and state taxes. The service is available to taxpayers with a 2014 Adjusted Gross Income of $60,000 or less. Free File is also updated for 2015 to help Americans navigate tax changes related to the Affordable Care Act. Visit http://www.irs.gov/freefile to prepare, complete and e-file your federal tax returns at no cost. Some of the participating companies also offer free state filing. You are able to choose the company that best fits your needs and then begin filing with their software. About 70 percent of American taxpayers are eligible to use this program, but many don’t take advantage of it. The service is also available in Spanish

Free File Fillable Forms: This service helps taxpayers who are familiar with tax law and need no preparation assistance to complete and file their federal income tax electronically for free. There are no income limitations to use Free File Fillable Forms.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA): Low-to-moderate income taxpayers can get walk-in assistance with this service. It is aimed at individuals who have an AGI of $53,000 or less. Some VITA sites (those that have “self-prep” in the listing ) allow taxpayers to prepare their own basic federal and state tax return for free with Web-based tax prep software as an IRS-certified volunteer guides them through the process. You can use the VITA Locator Tool (enter your zip code) to find a site near you now through April. You can also call 888-227-7669 for location information.

AARP Foundation Tax-Aide/Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE): This program, offered in conjunction with the IRS, offers free, individualized tax preparation for low-to moderate-income taxpayers – particularly those 60 and older – at more than 5,000 locations nationwide. The majority of TCE programs are run by AARP. The service specializes in questions about pensions and retirement issues unique to seniors. Many of the IRS-certified volunteers who provide tax counseling are retirees. Use the locator tool to find a location near you.

Online Tax Prep programs/ deals at national tax preparers: The top companies offer free versions of their online tax prep for filing Federal income taxes. TurboTax, TaxACT and H&R Block are among the more popular. Turbo Tax will allow you to file both federal 1040A or 1040EZ returns for free with TurboTax Federal Free Edition. You also do not pay extra to comply with new health care laws or to claim their earned income tax credit. You can complete your state returns using Turbo Tax, but you have to pay to e-file them (instead of printing and mailing the return).

Liberty Tax Prep, one of the national tax prep services, is offering free tax prep for clients age 65 and over from March 15 – 21. Two metro area locations include:
Liberty Tax Sugarloaf, 1575 Lawrenceville Highway, Suite K, Lawrenceville. 678-985-1171. and Liberty Tax Snellville, 2189 Scenic Highway, Suite E, Snellville. 770-736-1400. Call the locations for details.


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