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Taxes are due: How to find free help and the company accused of falsely advertising free services

Federal tax deadline is April 18; MD taxes due July 15
Tax Filing
Posted at 6:00 AM, Apr 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-12 07:08:42-04

BALTIMORE — The federal tax deadline is Monday, April 18, and if you need to file there are ways to do it for free.

Millions of people are missing out on this opportunity. A Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration report in 2020 found that of the 104 million taxpayers eligible for free-filing, only 2.5 million people used the IRS’s program. In contrast, more than 34.5 million taxpayers who met the program criteria, used commercial software to file their tax return.

In Maryland, anyone can file their state returns at no cost, regardless of income.

And while different tax preparers advertise free filing, the Federal Trade Commission said that's not the full truth.

The agency filed a complaint in federal court calling Intuit’s commercials for free filing with their Turbo Tax software misleading and requested the company be ordered to immediately end its deceptive advertising.

The consumer protection agency argued most tax filers don't qualify like gig workers with 1099 forms or those who earn farm income, and in 2020, around two-thirds of tax filers could not use Turbo Tax’s free product.

Intuit is challenging the complaint.

“The FTC’s arguments are simply not credible. Far from steering taxpayers away from free tax preparation offerings, our free advertising campaigns have led to more Americans filing their taxes for free than ever before and have been central to raising awareness of free tax prep,” said Kerry McLean, executive vice president and general counsel of Intuit.

In its response to the complaint, the company also wrote that its ads clearly state Turbo Tax free edition is for simple U.S. returns only, and customers are referred to its website to check if they qualify.

While this dispute plays out in court, taxpayers who made less than $73,000 can use the IRS program to file at no cost.

“Ours is free and free means free,” said Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot.

The Comptroller of Maryland provides free income tax preparation for state returns at its 12 tax service locations. Customers will need to have a copy of their completed federal tax return.

“I think it gives the taxpayer piece of mind knowing that we’ve done their return or we prepare the return, and hand them a copy or we mail the return for them,” said Jeannette Smith, manager of the Towson branch office for the Comptroller of Maryland.

Taxpayers can also use the state’s internet tax filing system to file returns online.

“Actually, all of our services are free. So, whether you’re coming to the branch office to file or go online, everything is free,” Smith said.

And in Maryland, you’ll have an extra three months to file. The Comptroller pushed back the deadline for state returns for the third year in a row. The deadline is now July 15, 2022.

“That’s in effect. It’s 90 days, interest-free, penalty-free, no application necessary loan of between $1.5 billion and $2 billion to Maryland small businesses and Maryland families,” said Comptroller Franchot.

If you taxpayers make more than $73,000, they can still file a free federal return by filling out forms on the IRS’s website.

And if you want to visit the Comptroller’s office for assistance with your state return, you’ll need to make an appointment online. If one isn’t available, give them a call. Certain locations are also accepting walk-ins.

Click here for additional tax assistance resources in Maryland.

AARP offers free tax preparation for seniors who have low-to-moderate income. If you’re over age 50, you can schedule an in-person or virtual tax preparation appointment with a Tax-Aide volunteer. You can find a local site by calling 2-1-1 or searching the database. You can also find one through AARP.