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Programs Offer Ways to File Taxes for Free, Regardless of Income

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No matter how much you make, there are ways to file your taxes for free. NY1's Tara Lynn Wagner filed the following report.

Pearl Brown just found out she'll be getting a refund this year.

"I feel quite happy about that," she says.

Even better: she didn't have to pay anyone anything to get it.

Brown had her taxes prepared at a VITA site, which stands for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance. A site hosted by Urban Upbound is just one of the 13,000 sites across the country where eligible taxpayers can have their returns processed by IRS-trained volunteers free of charge.

"They specialize in the earned-income tax credit, a credit for low- to moderate-income working individuals and families," says IRS spokesperson Peggy Riley. "They specialize in some of the credits for the elderly that they might not be aware of. So it's a really great service."

The program is available to households making less than $52,000 dollars per year. All taxpayers need to do is bring their W2s or 1099s and a few other simple documents.

"They have to bring identification," says Bishop Mitchell G. Taylor, CEO and co-founder of Urban Upbound. "If they're claiming dependents, they need to bring their Social Security cards."

There are also self-help locations where volunteers can guide you as you e-file on your own, and there are VIRTUAL VITA sites, which allow taxpayers to drop their materials off at a local intake center to be processed by volunteers elsewhere.

"They will call you and let you know when it's ready, or you can go ahead and give them authorization over the phone to do an e-file, to file electronically, and you get your refund faster that way also," says Alba Pico, first deputy commissioner of the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs.

To find a VITA site near you, go to irs.gov and search "Free Tax Help."

Prefer the DIY approach? The IRS also partners with 14 tax software companies to allow anyone making less than $58,000 a year to e-file for free. That's about 70 percent of all taxpayers. Just click the Free File logo at irs.gov to bring up the list.

"So you pick what company you want to use, you click on their link, and you go to their site and file your return for free," Riley says.

Finally, if you make more than $58,000, you can still file for free using Fillable Forms. It won't guide you with questions the way software does, so you need to have a little knowledge of the process, but the option is there.

"Technically, everybody can file for free, and more and more people are finding that it's pretty simple and they can do it themselves, and then, they get to keep their entire refund and don't have to pay someone," Riley says.

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