I earn my living preparing taxes. I guess you already had that figured out. I get paid for my knowledge on tax issues and applying that information to the taxpayer’s individual situation.
Yet I’m regularly asked to do work for free or for a reduced price. I’m not talking about price shoppers. I have a firm policy against pricing over the phone. But if the client will come into the office and let me start the return, I will give them a fairly accurate price quote and a good idea how the return will come out. If they aren’t comfortable with my price, I will give them all their paperwork back. No charge.
The problem is those who let me completely prepare the return and then start with their hard luck story and ask for a free return or a significantly reduced price. Some seem surprised that I would expect them to pay before I will file the return. But that’s one of the things you have to deal with when you run a business.
For taxpayers who really can’t afford to pay to have their tax return prepared but can’t do it themselves, I would suggest VITA or TCE. VITA and TCE are IRS programs which provide tax return preparation help to taxpayers. These are volunteer programs so they can provide free help. VITA can help with returns for taxpayers making under $51,000 a year. TCE volunteers focus on helping taxpayers 60 years old or older. For more info about the programs and how to find a location near you, please check the IRS website.
Our Taxing Times has increased the number of taxpayers seeking free tax help. These are not readers or potential clients who are asking for clarification on an issue or with a general question. These are people who want me to make a decision about a specific issue that affects their return. A return that I’m not going to prepare. Too often they already have an opinion from their tax pro but they don’t like what they are hearing and want me to tell them what they want to hear. Sorry! If you want advice specific to your situation, we need to talk about you becoming a client.
FYI, I also don’t know anything about Turbo Tax or other box or online tax software so I can’t answer your questions about those programs.
I do some pro bono work and make payment and pricing arrangements but that needs to be discussed before I preparer the return. The bottom line is that you don’t work for free so you shouldn’t expect that I or any tax pro will prepare your return for free.