There is also the Volunteer Income tax Assistance Program, orVITA. It provides free tax help to low- or moderate-incomefamilies. In general, if your income is less than $40,000, youwill qualify for services. To find the nearest site to you, callthe IRS at 1-800-829-1040.Do it yourself “The first way is to use some type of software package thatallows you to do that,” he said. “Another way is to go to a Website. A number of the larger commercial preparation services havea Web site where you can actually go and enter your returnon-line. Of course, there’s a fee for this service.” “I think it’s important,” he said. “There are differences in paidpreparers. Some are large, commercial preparers, nationalorganizations that do a lot of advertising. And some are mom-and-pop operations. Their qualifications may vary.” If you do feel comfortable filing your own taxes, there areseveral ways to use your personal computer to file. “Tax Counseling for the Elderly is a partnership program betweenthe IRS and AARP,” Rupured said. “It offers free tax returnassistance for senior citizens.” “If that return is transmitted electronically to the IRS by 11a.m. on Thursday,” he said, “the IRS promises your return will becredited to your bank account no later than the following Friday (assumingthere are no problems with the return). That being the case,there is no reason you should pay a couple hundred extra dollarsfor a refund anticipation loan.” “First, find out the qualifications of the individuals who willbe doing your return,” he said. “However, most companies usecomputer software that makes it very difficult for them to make amistake.” He said it’s also important to check rates. “The company may charge you a different fee for each form you’rerequired to fill out,” he said. “There may also be an additionalcharge if you want to e-file, electronically file yourreturn.” “Very few people are comfortable filling out their tax returns ontheir own,” Rupured said. “Tax laws are complicated, and peopleare afraid of making a mistake. Tax professionals can certainlybe a valuable resource in those situations. But everyone doesn’tneed to go to a paid professional to file their returns.” Another cost to watch out for is associated with refund anticipation loans.Rupured said some companies will lend a customer money in theamount of the refund so the customer doesn’t have to wait for theInternal Revenue Service. “Unfortunately, filing a tax return can be a daunting andcomplicating process,” said Michael Rupured, a consumer economicsspecialist with the University of Georgia College of Family andConsumer Sciences. “The vast majority of people do turn to somekind of preparation assistance.”Shop around “Now, if you file your return electronically, you can arrange fordirect deposit of your refund into your checking or savingsaccount,” he said. Check qualifications and rates By April ReeseUniversity of GeorgiaNot everyone needs professional help to file their tax returns. Many people, though, still pay for help. But who should file your returns? And how much will it cost? Free tax servicesFree tax help is available for the elderly and those with modestincomes. Rupured said there are things to look for when deciding on apreparation service. Rupured urges people to shop around.