Free and discounted tax preparation resources are available to Pennsylvanians looking to save money and avoid headaches this tax season. In addition, some new tax rules are in effect which can potentially help taxpayers save money.
Tax season can be rough on the brain and the pocketbook. Preparing your own taxes sometimes involves navigating arcane rules many don’t understand, and paying for an accountant or premium tax filing service can be pricey.
Fortunately, there are local, state, and federal programs to help Pennsylvanians file their taxes cheaply and easily, sometimes even for free.
Whether you need general tax advice, assistance for a non-English speaker, the elderly, or a person with a disability, here’s a small sample of the organizations that can help and a few new tax breaks you should know about:
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program provides families across Pennsylvania with trained volunteers to help in the completion of their federal tax returns completely for free.
Income eligibility does vary county to county but in general, households earning less than $58,000 are eligible as well as the elderly, people living with disabilities, and taxpayers who speak limited English.
To check on income eligibility in your county, use the PA 211 self-scheduling tool here, or call 211 and select the tax option to speak with resource navigators.
Not all VITA sites are able to provide assistance with state and local taxes. Additionally, not every county is supported by VITA programs, so make sure to check beforehand.
Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE)
The Tax Counseling for the Elderly program is a cooperative grant system that provides free tax assistance to taxpayers 60 and older. After a person applies and is approved, the IRS and other organizations provide the funds for volunteers’ out of pocket expenses incurred by traveling to a location convenient for the grant recipient.
Tax preparation assistance is available through April 15 each year, but there are readiness programs year round.
Free E-file Vendors
The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue publishes a list of online tax filing tools that are completely free.
Currently listed are offers by Cash App Taxes, which files state and federal taxes with no eligibility restrictions, and OnLine Taxes, which files federal and state taxes with an income eligibility of less than $41,000 or $73,000 for active duty service members.
Myfreetaxes.com is exactly what it sounds like.
This website offers a free online tool to file your taxes independently, and there is phone support available in multiple languages. There is no income limit, but the tool is designed for those filing simpler tax returns.
Campaign for Working Families (CWF)
The Campaign for Working Families offers free tax preparation services for people in Southeastern Pennsylvania who make less than $65,000 a year.
You can get tax help online, in person, or over the phone. Find out how to schedule an appointment here.
IRS Free File
This program is a coalition between the IRS and a group of tax filing companies offering two ways for taxpayers to prepare and file their returns online for free.
One option provides free access to online tax preparation and filing software for households with an income of less than $73,000.
The second is Free File Fillable Forms, which includes electronic federal tax forms that are equivalent to a paper 1040 and all the supplemental forms necessary to submit a tax return. This is for households with an income of more than $73,000.
American Association of Retired Persons Foundation Tax-Aide
The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) offers a completely free program with in-person tax assistance for federal and state returns. Although originally developed to assist seniors, the program is open to all age groups with low to moderate income. AARP membership is not required.
Many local libraries, colleges, and community centers offer free tax assistance through pop-up clinics.
For example, the Chester County Library and District Center offers free coaching sessions, free IRS instruction manuals and schedules, as well as the AARP program mentioned above.
Temple University in Philadelphia also offers a free remote tax counseling program affiliated with VITA. It has an income eligibility of $57,414 and a requirement that anyone seeking aid is a US citizen or permanent resident and does not own a business.
Non-English Speaker Programs
- Ceiba provides free federal and state tax preparation for low income families in both English and Spanish.
- Congreso De Latinos Unidos provides free tax preparation in both English and Spanish on a first-come, first-served basis. Income eligibility is limited to households earning less than $56,000 annually.
- Philadelphia Chinatown Community Development Corporation (PCDC) is a VITA affiliated program that provides free tax preparation for limited English speakers, the elderly, and people living with disabilities. Income eligibility is capped at $60,000 annually.
- The Tzu Chi Foundation Philadelphia is a program affiliated with VITA that provides free tax preparation in English, Chinese, and Cantonese. Income eligibility is limited to households earning less than $57,000 annually, as well as taxpayers who do not own any business or rental property and are US citizens or permanent residents.
New tax rules are in place that can benefit many Pennsylvanians.
New Tax Thresholds
The percentage you pay in income taxes progressively increases (from 10% to 37%) the more you earn. Thanks to inflation (how often can we say that?), this year’s thresholds have increased — meaning you have to make even more money to hit a higher tax rate.
For example, in 2023, an unmarried filer who makes $95,000/year will have a top rate of 22%, down from 24% last year. That shakes out to a total savings of $429!
The Standard Deduction is Increasing
All filers can choose to take a standard deduction or itemize deductions to reduce the amount of their income that’s taxable for the year. Most claim the standard deduction because it’s easier and doesn’t require tallying up charitable donations, major medical bills, and state and local taxes.
Like income tax brackets, the standard deduction gets an annual inflation adjustment. This year’s bump is one of the biggest yet. In 2023, it’s increasing by $900, to $13,850 for singles, and by $1,800, to $27,700, for couples.
On January 1, Pennsylvanians became eligible to save thousands of dollars in taxes when they buy electric cars, induction stoves, and other modern appliances under the Inflation Reduction Act that Democrats passed last fall.
If you’ve added a heat pump, upgraded your breaker box, weatherized your insulation, installed a solar rooftop, or purchased an electric vehicle, you are eligible for a new tax credit of about 30%.