How Do I Use AARP's Free Tax-Preparation Services?

By Nadya JosifovLast Updated Jul 6, 2020 5:14:11 PM ET
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Photo Courtesy: @AARP/Twitter

Tax time can be challenging for anyone, but, for seniors, it can be particularly tricky. Retirement can muddy the waters of what you owe and whether you have to file at all. What's more, the IRS offers special tax breaks for those over a certain age, and you don’t want to miss out on them. It isn't easy to figure it all out on your own, which is why having a knowledgeable professional to guide you in preparing your taxes is important.

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Even if you're not a senior, getting free help doing your taxes simplifies the process. That's what makes AARP's free tax-prep services particularly helpful — plus, they're open to everyone, regardless of age.

What Is AARP's Free Tax Prep?

AARP created its tax program, AARP Foundation Tax-Aide, in 1968. In the decades since, it has provided tax assistance to almost 50 million taxpayers. In the past, all taxpayers using the service received more than $200 million together on average in earned income tax credits every year and $1.4 billion in annual income tax refunds — all without having to pay for tax prep. The program's vice president, Lynnette Lee-Villanueva, notes, "For more than 50 years, we've helped lower-income taxpayers file their taxes. In that time, we've seen how even modest refunds can be a lifeline for older adults who struggle to make ends meet."

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Photo Courtesy: Kelly Sikkema/Unsplash

Finding a Location Near You

While the program initially had age and income requirements, leaving it open only to AARP members aged 50 and older with low to moderate incomes, today's version of AARP's free tax-prep services doesn't have any age or income requirements. The foundation operates in more than 5,000 locations throughout the United States in easy-to-access spots like banks, senior centers, libraries and malls.

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Photo Courtesy: PasadenaChannel/YouTube

Each is staffed with IRS-certified, trained volunteers. You can find a location online or by calling 888-227-7669. If in-person tax preparation is not possible or accessible to you, such as it was during the initial outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020’s tax season, Tax-Aide may provide taxpayers with access to no-cost tax-prep software to file and prepare their tax returns.

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Gather Important Documents

Whether you're taking advantage of AARP's free tax-preparation services or you're doing it alone, you need to have key documents close at hand to get the job done. If you're still working, you'll need a W-2 from each of your employers. If you receive Social Security benefits, you'll also need an SSA-1099 that shows the total amount of benefits you received for the year. If you retired from the railroad, you'll need an RRB-1099 that shows your Railroad Retirement benefits. If you receive a pension, IRA distribution or annuity, you need to have your 1099-R to file. If you have a business, bring your 1099-MISC or other forms listing your income and expenses.

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Photo Courtesy: Olga DeLawrence/Unsplash

You also need to have last year's tax return on hand. In addition, have handy your proof of identification, bank account information for direct depositing your refund or paying for any amount due, and official documentation like Social Security cards for everyone listed on the return.

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Other Free Tax-Prep Resources

If, for some reason, AARP's free tax-prep services don't meet your needs, there are other options to consider. Tax Counseling for the Elderly is a federal program that gives those aged 60 and older free tax-prep assistance from IRS-certified volunteers. Another federal program, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, is open to people with disabilities and those who make no more than around $55,000 per year, an amount that may change in the future.

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Photo Courtesy: PasadenaChannel/YouTube

There are also online resources, including IRS Free File, that allow you to file your taxes online. Other programs to consider include Credit Karma Tax and TurboTax, both of which offer free filing for state and local taxes for many individuals.

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