Low-cost, quick tax return help

By Jennifer Bragg


NEW YORK (CNN) -- With the new deductions and credits from the stimulus package, covering everything from home purchases to college tuition, this is the year to be sure your tax return takes advantage of it all.

Here are some tips for low-cost, quick help with your taxes, no matter what your income bracket.

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If your household income is $57,000 or less, about 70% of the nation's taxpayers, you can use a free online program to file your return.

The IRS has a partnership with 20 tax software companies. Go to IRS.gov/e-file. Choose a software provider and file electronically.

If you qualify for a refund, you'll receive it in as few as 10 days. If you owe money, you have until April 15 to send in your payment.

But bear in mind, if you are taking advantage of the homebuyers tax credit, you can still use the free e-file program to complete your return but you'll have to print it out, attach proof of your home purchase and mail-in the return.

If you make less than $50,000 a year but are not so tech savvy, the volunteer income tax assistance program, at 800-TAX-1040, and the AARP, at 888-227-7669, offer free over-the-phone or in-person tax assistance.

The AARP is an organization that targets people over a certain age but anyone can get tax assistance.

If your household income is over $57,000 there's not exactly free help but there are plenty of low-cost options.

Tax software is the least expensive option.

The cost depends on your needs but most people will pay between $50 and $100 for federal and state tax preparation and e-filing. Lot's of people aren't aware that there is a separate charge for e-filing

Also check in with your bank or credit union. Some provide discounts on tax software.

If your taxes are more complicated, there's always the option of having someone else prepare them, like Jackson Hewitt, H&R Block or a private CPA.

This will generally run you a few hundred dollars and the preparer is basically filling out the same software you could fill out yourself, with the exception that they might be more aware of all the deductions and credits you could claim.

Talkback: Do you use tax software to prepare and file your return? To top of page

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