As the deadline to file tax returns approaches, older adults who haven’t yet completed their returns may want help. With complex tax codes and rules that apply to retirees, filing independently is possible but can be overwhelming. Free tax preparation help for seniors is available to ensure they’re filing their taxes properly and on time, helping them avoid making costly errors and freeing up more money to help pay for senior care or living expenses. Below, we share free tax prep resources for seniors to file tax returns this year.

Free tax preparation services

Seniors can get help with their tax returns for free in many different ways. Although filing the return for your parent or older adult loved one may seem like a great idea, some tasks are best left to the professionals — especially if they need to deal with aspects of the tax code you’re unfamiliar with. These helpful programs offer free tax prep help for seniors (and some are available to people of any age).

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)

VITA is a program that has been in operation for over 50 years, connecting volunteers from the IRS to people who need help with their tax returns. VITA’s services are free for people who make $60,000 or less, people with disabilities, and those who don’t speak English. To learn more about the VITA program, you can find a location near you, read about the services they offer, or call to speak with a representative at 1-800-906-9887.

Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE)

The TCE program is very similar to the VITA program, except it’s designed specifically for those 60 or older. TCE representatives are trained to answer retiree-specific questions about pension plans, RMDs, etc.  You can learn more about the TCE program here or find a TCE site near you.

Other free tax prep services

In addition to VITA and TCE, other online programs such as by the United Way and can help you file your return. While they may sound like standalone entities, these services route you to free filing software or connect you with a certified tax preparer in the IRS’ VITA program. These online programs are a great option for those in areas without VITA representatives nearby or who can’t go far from their homes.

Common challenges seniors might face during tax season

There are quite a few common challenges seniors face during tax season that we’ve outlined below. Later, we explain how getting tax preparation assistance can solve some of these issues (and help you avoid their potential consequences).

Figuring out whether or not they’re required to file a return

While most seniors will be required to file a tax return, many believe they don’t have to. This can be a serious problem, as the IRS does not take skipping out on your taxes lightly.  So, make sure that you’re positive you or your elderly loved one aren’t required to file a tax return before skipping out on tax season. Though this is a common tax error, you can easily avoid it when determining whether you need to file.

Calculating (and taking) their required minimum distribution

Certain accounts require you to take a minimum distribution (RMD) after reaching a certain age. While it may not seem like a big deal if you don’t take a distribution from your retirement account, it’s quite a big deal for the IRS. You actually have to pay the penalty if you don’t take your full RMD in a given year. There have been changes to some of the tax laws starting in 2023, so you may want to read up on RMD basics and essential RMD tax law changes to learn if you need to withdraw or talk to a tax professional about your situation.

Figuring out what deductions they can take

This is quite possibly the toughest challenge that seniors face, mostly because you’ll need to provide documentation of any expenses you will write off. Unfortunately, many people don’t realize they can deduct certain expenses until tax time. Not keeping records of expenses throughout the year makes it difficult to find documentation for the expenses they incurred months ago. To get a better handle on what you can write off this tax season, we’ve put together a couple of helpful articles on tax deductions for seniors and tax-deductible senior care expenses.

Benefits of getting tax prep help

Getting assistance on your tax returns can help you emotionally and financially. Below are some of the best reasons to get help filing your return this tax season.

Peace of mind

Let’s face it, filing your taxes can be very stressful. Having someone else do the heavy lifting will remove that stress entirely from your life. You will not have to worry about putting the return together, but you can rest easy knowing it was prepared properly.

Audit protection

In addition to peace of mind, you’ll also have some audit protection when someone else prepares your return. When working with a tax professional, they can come to your aid should the IRS have any questions about your return. At the end of the day, you’ll be much better off having a professional communicate and deal with the IRS for you.

Ensuring you haven’t overpaid

As we mentioned before, the tax code is complex, and it’s easy to forget about entering given information. Unfortunately, when it comes to income taxes, leaving off just one key piece of information can lead to underpaying or overpaying by a considerable amount. When a professional prepares your taxes, you won’t have to worry about mistakes on your return or underpaying/overpaying the IRS.