Ruth to the Rescue: Where to find free tax help


DETROIT – As we head into the final weeks of tax season, there is no need to panic about getting help with your returns. If you can't afford to pay a professional, you may qualify for some free assistance.

"Don't let this tax season be the one that really scares you," said Vivian Vasallo, vice president of the AARP Foundation. "Have it be the tax season that you know you can go to a tax-aide site and have a volunteer prepare your taxes for free."

AARP has several locations in the Detroit area and more 100 in the state of Michigan that offer tax payers peace of mind during the stressful tax season. The organization offers free tax preparation to people with low-to-moderate income, especially those 60 and older.

Related story: Are you paying Uncle Sam too much?

"There are volunteers that really want to help you with this service and are really here to champion for you," Vasallo said. While no one will be turned away, the AARP is targeting seniors who need the free help.

Other resources for free help 

Along with AARP, organizations like the Accounting Aid Society help fill in the gaps.

"We will help single tax payers up to $35,000 of income. Families up to $52,000 for free," said Marshall Hunt of the Accounting Aid Society.

And, its tax assistance doesn't end April 15th.

The Accounting Aid Society begins its spring/summer tax help the week of April 28th. You can get help if you missed the deadline, have back taxes, or want to start planning for 2015. You can call for an appointment 313-556-1920 or see the web link below. There are four locations: one in Ferndale and three in Detroit.

Accounting Aid Society: Check locations here.

IRS overwhelmed, callers put on hold

You used to be able to call the IRS for free advice, but a recent survey found that service is being whittled away. According to the IRS taxpayer advocate, 39 percent of the people who called the IRS for help gave up while being stuck on hold. That's approximately 20 million unanswered calls.

A shrinking IRS budget is to blame. Allocations to customer service went from $172 million in 2012 to only $22 million this year. 

While it's tougher to get the IRS on the phone, you can go to its website to find other resources for free tax help.

The IRS offers Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) Programs for those who qualify. Learn more at: www.irs.gov.