Get help doing your taxes for free

February 1, 2011 3:51:38 PM PST
Drive down most streets in Houston right now and you will see plenty of places that offer help with your taxes. Most want to charge for the service, but there are several places around Houston where you can get free tax help and that means keeping more of your own money. In the last couple of years, Neighborhood Tax Centers have helped tens of thousands of Houston residents get back millions of dollars on their returns. This year they are offering the free services again and they are not alone.

Getting tax help can be costly. Just ask Sandra Rodriguez.

She said, "They would charge me $100 or $200 and some times, they did not really explain why they were deducting."

But this year Rodriguez is getting her taxes done for free and keeping her entire refund.

"They were able to get me a bit more money, a couple thousand more, because I am going to school full-time so they were able to get me the tax credit on that," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez is using a Neighborhood Tax Center. In the last two years, the volunteers have helped 45,000 people get tax refunds worth $60 million.

Elizabeth Colvin with Neighborhood Tax Centers explained, "The entire service is free. It is the tax preparation, the electronic filing, the fast refund of the money you've earned."

There is an income requirement to use the service. Families cannot earn more than $50,000 and individuals can not earn more than $30,000. While there is no average return when it comes to taxes, the IRS-certified volunteers try to get every dollar taxpayers have coming to them.

"Actually it is a couple of thousand, especially if you are family with children, and you have earned income you will be eligible for the earned income, which can be as much as $5,000 back," Colvin said.

You can also get tax help from volunteers with the AARP. The senior preparers offer free assistance right up to the tax filing deadline.

AARP volunteer Bob Lebow said, "Normally it is elderly people and those with low income. Usually the threshold is $42,000 and less."

You can also find free tax help from the IRS, with their online Free File program.