Get Your Self-Filed Taxes Checked for Free

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billion backH&R Block has been running ads preparing for and during this tax season saying that Americans who self-filed left $1 billion on the table, and that they can help you get that money back.  It’s an interesting concept, and Done By Forty wrote a great contemplative article about it that got me thinking.

I could be 100% wrong, and like Done by Forty, I’m not even sure where the $1 billion number came from, but my best guess is that a lot of that money that people didn’t get back on their returns probably came from low-income families.  Very low-income.  A lot of people don’t file taxes because they don’t make enough money for it to be a requirement.  DON’T DO THAT.  File.  Your employer was probably already taking taxes out of your paycheck anyways, and if you don’t owe anything, then the government owes you the money that was taken out of your pay.  On top of that, you may qualify for the EIC (earned income credit,) especially if you have children.  If the credit exceeds your tax due, the government actually has to pay it to you.  If you do have children, you probably also qualify for the child tax credit, which reduces the amount of tax you owe by up to $1,000 per a child.  If you already don’t owe any tax, you can get up to $1,000 BACK IN YOUR POCKET per child.  Filing is worth it.  You will make money.

If all of that sounds like gibberish to you, locate the nearest VITA center.  They do your taxes for free if you’re below a certain income level.  If what I said does make some sense to you, you could still locate your nearest VITA center, or use the option below to self-file and make sure you’re doing it right.

I was once in a situation where I wasn’t sure if I had filed everything correctly, so I took my taxes in to a tax service center where you paid a guy to file for you.  Much like H&R Block.  I knew that because part of our family’s income was military, we didn’t owe state taxes for our state for that income.  In fact, they were owed back to us.  The guy filed everything, then told me all the same numbers I had already figured out, except he insisted we pay state taxes on the military pay.  No matter how many times I told him about the law, he refused to even look it up.  He wanted $300 to file for me.  I told him no and left.

So I wondered if was standard practice.  Have the person run your numbers.  See what they get.  If you like their work, pay them.  If not, leave.  I called H&R Block to check.  Turns out it is.

What this means is that regardless of your financial situation, good or bad, if you prepare your own taxes you can essentially take them in for a free check-up.  If there are any glaring differences you can pay them to do your taxes right.  If there aren’t and you discover they got the same figures as you, you can walk out the door a little more self-assured without paying a cent.

If you go this route, I would do my self-filing by paper (remember to do federal, state, and local.)  Bring all your forms and worksheets and whatever else they require you to bring.  That way when they go over the numbers, all of your work is right in front of you.

I would feel like this was unethical if the ads we’ve been bombarded with weren’t so bold.  If they want to say they’ll get me my billion back, I want them to prove it before I pay them.

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12 thoughts on “Get Your Self-Filed Taxes Checked for Free

  1. Rebecca (@StaplerConfesh)

    That is a great idea. Will you let us know how it goes if you do it? I have had my taxes done for a month, but I haven’t filed them yet because I wanted to take them to a CPA to double-check them. We owe a ton of money because we both have side gigs, and I’m so sad to see our bank account balance go down!

    1. femmefrugality Post author

      I’ve already filed this year, but I’d see if the CPA will still charge you if his numbers match your own. I hear you…side gigs are good, but the taxes on them can be rough!

  2. donebyforty

    What a savvy move! I’ve never had a professional double check my taxes; maybe this is the year.

    And thanks so much for the mention and the kind words, Femme Frugality!

    1. femmefrugality Post author

      Thanks for writing such great content! If you’re self-filing, I’d do it…what do you have to lose, right?

  3. Britnee

    Sadly in Reading, PA you will find tons of places where they take advantage of low income family. You have people that should not be working on their taxes and charge too much. In town I discovered a place that helps low income families with their taxes too. You go in and they will check it and help you. Thanks for posting this.

    1. femmefrugality Post author

      Oh, that’s really sad. I know in Allegheny County it’s done largely through United Way/*211. VITA is good. Scammy people running with a fee is not.

  4. Mel

    I don’t think it’s unethical. I actually used H&R Block this year and they did run all my numbers for free. The woman actually emphasized it as we started going through my tax info because it was absolutely ridiculous this year.

    On the flip side, I can see another reason why so much money is possibly left on the table. Where I live H&R Block filed my NJ and NY tax returns for $40 each. Ouch. Every other state was $80. If I wasn’t getting back more than $80, there was no reason to file it. So for me, that was every single state. I didn’t even get back much more than $40 from NY and NJ, I just figured I really should file those. Even afterwards, I went home and used TurboTax for like 4 more states, that was $15 a state and I had about 10 more states that would’ve been less than that, but added up to over $100 overall that I just walked away from. The tax systems really just needs to be fixed so you don’t feel like you need professional help once your paperwork is more complicated that a W-2 or two.

  5. The Thrifty Issue

    My brother is a tax professional, so he does the whole family. We all have different skills we do for each other and it works pretty well.

    I have never thought of having tax checked for free like that! But it is a great tip.

  6. Kylie Ofiu

    My taxes have been a little more complicated so it has been worth using a professional. I never thought to get the them ‘check’ it then file myself.
    Can you claim the cost back on your taxes next year? In Australia, if you use a professional, you can claim their fee on your tax the following year. You don’t get the whole amount back as it depends on your tax bracket, but do you do similar in the USA?

  7. becbier

    Great advice! I have always filed except when I was still considered a dependent of my parents. The credits help and when you don’t make much throughout the year, it can be nice to see a refund, even if it isn’t much.

  8. Pingback: Cheap and Free Tax Preparation Options (Without DIYing It!) | Femme Frugality

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