IRS Guide to Community-Based Free Tax Preparation


Notice: Historical Content

This is an archival or historical document and may not reflect current law, policies or procedures.

IRS Tax Tip 2017-12, February 9, 2017

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs help people every year. Through these IRS-sponsored programs, millions of lower-to-moderate income individuals and families get their taxes done free.

The IRS works with local community groups to train and certify VITA and TCE volunteers to offer this service. Eligible taxpayers, including those with disabilities or limited English, should take advantage of these free programs.

Here are several important details about VITA and TCE:

  • VITA. VITA offers free tax return preparation to eligible taxpayers who generally earn $54,000 or less.
  • TCE. TCE is mainly for people age 60 or older but offers service to all taxpayers. The program focuses on tax issues unique to seniors. AARP participates in the TCE program through AARP Tax-Aide.
  • Local Sites. The IRS works with community organizations to offer free tax services at thousands of sites nationwide. These sites usually open in late January and early February.
  • Free Electronic Filing. VITA and TCE provide free electronic filing. E-filing is the safest, most accurate way to file a tax return. Combine e-file with direct deposit for quicker refunds.
  • Tax Benefits. VITA and TCE volunteers help people to get all the tax benefits for which they are eligible. These include the Earned Income Tax Credit, American Opportunity Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit or the Credit for the Elderly.
  • Bilingual Help. Some VITA and TCE sites provide bilingual help.
  • Help for Military. Many military bases have VITA sites that offer free tax assistance to members of the military and their families. Volunteers can help with military tax topics. Some of these include special rules and tax benefits that apply to those serving in combat zones.
  • Self-Preparation Option. At many VITA sites, people who earn $64,000 or less may be able to prepare their own tax returns using free web-based software. This option is for those who do not have a home computer or do not need much help.
  • Site Information. Taxpayers can find the nearest VITA site by using the VITA Locator Tool at or by downloading the IRS2Go app. Site information is also available by calling the IRS at 800-906-9887. Find more on AARP Tax-Aide locations at by using the AARP Tax-Aide Locatoror by calling 888-227-7669.

All taxpayers should keep a copy of their tax return. Beginning in 2017, taxpayers using a software product for the first time may need their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) amount from their prior-year tax return to verify their identity. Taxpayers can learn more about how to verify their identity and electronically sign tax returns at Validating Your Electronically Filed Tax Return.

 IRS YouTube Videos: 

  • Free Help Preparing Your Tax Return – English | Spanish | ASL (Obsolete)

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