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Free Tax Help: How to Get Assistance for Filing Your 2021 Tax Return

You're down to the wire, but there are still ways to get free help with your taxes, including weekend IRS offices.

Two women working on a computer
Tax assistance can help you navigate complications in your tax return.
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Taxes in 2022 are complicated -- several important tax changes this year require careful attention. The good news? Along with a host of ways for filing your taxes for free, you also have a number of options for getting free tax assistance.

Some free tax help is only available for specific groups of people, such as the elderly or English language learners, but other assistance is available to anyone, including local IRS offices that offer Saturday hours that require no appointment. The last open weekend date for IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers before the federal tax deadline of April 18 is this Saturday, April 9.

Read on to learn all about free help for filing your taxes. For more, discover CNET's best tax software for 2022, how to handle crypto on your taxes and tax breaks for filers with student loans.

IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TAC)

IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers are IRS offices located across the country, in every state. Along with offering a space for taxpayers to deliver paper tax returns or drop off payments, TACs also provide free assistance on a variety of tax-related issues, including how to reconcile your advance child tax credit payments on your 2021 taxes.

TAC generally operate only on weekdays and by appointment. However, from February to May, about 40 TACs in 24 states are open on the second Saturday of the month, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. without an appointment. 

This Saturday, April 9, is the last weekend day that these TACs will be open before the tax deadline of April 18, 2022, though they will also be open Saturday, May 12. 

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)

VITA is offered by the IRS for people who meet one of the following:

  • Those who make less than $56,000.
  • People with disabilities.
  • Older filers, including senior citizens.
  • Those who speak little English.

VITA is at the community level. You can find VITA help through community centers, libraries, schools and similar locations. Find VITA help near you.

Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE)

While VITA might serve elderly filers, TCE specifically targets senior citizens. Keep in mind, though, that you can still use TCE services even if you aren't 60 years of age or older.

TCE specializes in retirement-related concerns, including information about pensions and other retirement plans. This help comes from IRS-certified volunteers. TCE help is usually offered in the same place as VITA: community-related places. Look for TCE help in your neighborhood.

AARP Foundation Tax-Aide

AARP offers free tax preparation through its AARP Foundation Tax-Aide Program every year from Feb. 1 through Tax Day, which is April 18 this year. Typically, Tax-Aide helps low- and moderate-income taxpayers over the age of 50, although it promises its services are available to everyone, regardless of whether you're an AARP member or not. 

AARP's tax assistance program has been around for more than 50 years and has helped 68 million taxpayers. The service is available only by appointment: Click here to find available appointments.

MilTax

Military OneSource, or MilTax, is offered by the Department of Defense in partnership with H&R Block for those serving in active duty. It also covers their spouses, dependent children and survivors.

The service provides free tax software as well as resources for military personnel and their families, like financial and legal help. You can get help by phone or live chat. If possible, you might get free in-person help if you live on or near a base.

Free tax filing software

When you qualify for free filing services through software like H&R Block and TurboTax, you also get access to free assistance. If you're planning to file your taxes for free, you might want to check with your software to see what types of help they offer. Some offers might require you to pay an additional fee for support, but not everyone charges for tax help.

Universities, nonprofits and tax clinics

Sometimes you can find help from up-and-coming professionals. If you have a question or concern about your filing, contact your local university law or business school. You might find a student who would appreciate the training assisting with your request. 

You can also contact tax clinics. The IRS has The Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) Program that helps those who otherwise can't hire legal help. It's free or low-cost for taxpayers who qualify. Each clinic determines which clients meet guidelines and eligibility.

Many community-supported organizations are also available, but not every state, city or county offers the same services. You might want to see what's offered in your area before enlisting the help of a professional you'd need to pay. Some of these services are reserved for people who need legal help when facing lawsuits or related issues from the IRS. So if you have a non-pressing tax question, you might not qualify for tax clinic help.

You may also want to try a local tax professional. Many of them offer free consultations to help you decide if you should file on your own or with the help of an expert. You can do a simple online search or see if the National Society of Accountants can help you find someone in your area.

IRS helpline

If you have questions about your return, how to file or anything related to your taxes, you can call the IRS helpline at 1-800-829-1040. There's no limit on how often you can call, and if it can, the helpline will provide you with as much information as it can.

Even if you're unsure if your question will have an answer, it's best to try first. The IRS might be able to point you in the right direction to get the help you need.