Caregiver Question | 03/09/23

I spent all morning on my mother’s taxes and got nowhere. I need help but can’t afford it. Help please!

DEAR CARALLEL: This is the first year that I have to do my mother’s taxes. After wasting hours on them yesterday and accomplishing nothing, I realized that I have no idea what I’m doing.  

Because mine are simple, I’m able to use the free version of TurboTax. That doesn’t work for my mother because she has my father’s pension and she moved states last year.

The thing is that after yesterday even if I had more time to spend on them, I’d be concerned that I would do them wrong and get mom or myself in trouble. I need help but can’t afford to pay a professional to do it.

Is there anyone who does this sort of thing for free? I need help. — Talia in Plymouth, MN 

DEAR TALIA: I felt the same way when I was caring for my Mom. I found everything about doing her taxes to be confusing and stressful!

The good news is that I have some information that I think will be helpful for you. The IRS has two programs that prepare tax returns for free for qualifying individuals.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program

It’s been in existence for more than 50 years and is staffed by IRS certified volunteers who are often retired tax professionals. According to the IRS website:

VITA locations offer free tax help to people who need assistance in preparing their own returns, including: 

  • People who make $60,000 or less per year
  • People with disabilities
  • Limited English-speaking taxpayers

So if your Mom can be involved in the process with your help, this could be a good option.

Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) Program 

This program offers free tax help for people who are 60 years old or older, with a focus on questions surrounding pensions and other considerations that are common among retirees.

Like VITA, TCE is managed by the IRS and staffed with IRS certified volunteers with the tax expertise that you seek.

What I appreciate most about these programs (other than them being free!) is that they’re managed by the IRS. If we’re getting help with something as sensitive as our taxes, we want a trustoworty helper so I take comfort in knowing the IRS is behind them.

Lastly, you can check out this document from the IRS to see more detail about services provided by the VITA and TCE programs.  

Other Important Details to Know

Now that you’re aware of the programs, maybe you’re thinking ok great, but how do I find them??

Well, you can find a location near you on the IRS’ locator tool here: It’s simple to use, all you need to do is enter your zip code.

Or if you’d prefer to speak with someone over the phone, you can call 1-800-906-9887.

Have a look at the locator or give the IRS a call to find a convenient location near you, understand what services are offered at each location (they can vary a bit depending on the expertise of available staff), and to make an appointment.

Lastly, the IRS does a nice job of detailing what you’ll need to bring to your appointment here

I hope this helps, Talia! 

All the best,

–Jennifer, Carallel Care Advocate

The latest from Carallel

Caregiver Question

"How can I encourage her to do more on her own?"

DEAR CARALLEL: My mother moved in with me a couple of years ago after she suffered a stroke. Her recovery has been slow but steady and we are...

Caregiver Journey Webinar

The Caregiver Journey: 7 Pieces of Adaptive Equipment All Caregivers Should Know About

Matt Perrin is joined by Cindy Hardin-Weiss, MSPT, and Christina Hardin-Weiss, MS/SLP, for this Caregiver Journey Conversation by Carallel. Cindy is...

Caregiver Question

"I was relieved when Dad stopped driving, but now I'm his driver and it's a full time job. Help!"

DEAR CARALLEL: My father is 86 years old and living his best life. He is social and independent and we consider ourselves lucky that his biggest...