With roughly two months until Tax Day and a potential hurdle cleared last week by the Internal Revenue Service, Mainers are now on the clock to file.
While it can be a painful activity, it does not have to be an expensive one. Most Mainers qualify for free online tax services through a low-key IRS program. There are also websites and apps providing no-cost filing and other initiatives for analog filers who need help. If you have a complicated tax situation, you should consult a tax preparer.
Here’s your Maine-centered guide to free tax filing ahead of the April 18 deadline.
Don’t sign up for paid services without reviewing these options.
Paid services like TurboTax make it easy to file taxes, but they also often come with fees.
One place to look before paying is the IRS Free File program. It offers two options — guided tax preparation to individual filers and families making an adjusted gross income of less than $73,000 or forms that you can fill out on your own at no cost. That includes most Mainers.
When you browse the online-only providers, you will see some drawbacks to these programs. For example, some of them do not handle certain tax credits, only serve people in certain age ranges, do not handle state returns or only process state returns in some areas.
But many of us can get our taxes done this way, year after year. The United Way offers a similar service to those making $60,000 or less per year online or in person.
There are other ways to file for free, but look at the terms.
They say nothing is free, and that is often true on the internet. However, those who do not fall under those income limits have some other options to get taxes filed at no cost. These returns generally have to be simple ones, and there can be less customer service available than paid services generally have. You should also be aware that services may try to upsell you.
Lots of new players in the tax game run well-regarded services. For example, the media outlet CNET rated Cash App Taxes, an offshoot of a mobile payment company, as the best free tax software available this year. The legacy company H&R Block also has a free service. Both of these companies offer free state and federal returns.
Is there a catch? Some of these sites essentially ask you to pay with privacy, as The Washington Post has noted. They want access to financial information so they can try to sell loans or other financial products to you. If it makes you uncomfortable, find another way.
Lots of in-person programs serve Mainers as well.
For those who prefer filing taxes on paper or with local groups, there are many options available.
Mainers in households making less than $60,000 and meeting other criteria can get taxes prepared under a program run by CA$H Maine, a coalition of community groups that offers tax work done by volunteer experts. It offers in-person meetings around the state, “scan and go” dates at which you can drop off information and get a follow-up call and remote work.
The AARP also runs a similar program targeted at lower-income people over age 50, including in-person visits, drop-off and remote options.