Free filing, tax preparation discounts for first responders
Using an online tax preparation service or working with a public safety tax preparation expert might save you time and money. Here’s what to know.
By Lifestyle Staff
Top tax preparation services may offer discounts for first responders looking to save money on their annual tax preparation. Discounts might be available directly from the tax preparation company or accessible through group purchasing programs, like ID.me. First responders might also have access to discounted tax services through their union or professional association membership, or as an additional employer benefit or personal insurance provider.
Tax preparation, depending on your filing status, income sources, credits and deductions, can be time consuming. Though the do-it-yourself route with a pencil and calculator can be satisfying, your time is money. The go-it-alone route also creates a risk that you might make a math mistake, or miss a federal or state tax deduction or tax credit that you might be eligible for as a first responder.
A web-based tax preparation service, like Intuit TurboTax, walks you through a step-by-step process to determine your tax liability, if any, and preferences for receiving a refund. Using a tax preparation service will likely save you time, especially in subsequent years after you’ve entered your demographic and employment information, but unless you are eligible for free filling, you are going to have to pay a fee.
Fortunately, as a police officer, firefighter, EMT, paramedic or corrections officer, there might be ways to save money on tax preparation services.
Are you eligible for IRS Free File?
If your 2023 adjusted gross income is $79,000 or less, you are probably qualified for IRS Free File and a free federal tax return. Check out the requirements and the steps to get started on the IRS Free File website.
Are you active-duty military or a veteran?
Many of the top online tax-preparation services provide their best discounts for active-duty military personnel and veterans. If your entry to public safety was through the military, you may be eligible for discounts from these national tax preparers:
- Liberty Tax has special pricing on tax preparation for all active-duty and veteran service members
- Intuit TurboTax offers free filing for active duty and reservists
- TaxAct has a free filing program for active-duty military personnel
- TaxSlayer also offers free filing for active-duty military
With the above programs and other first responder discounts, make sure to read the fine print to ensure your eligibility. For example, the Intuit TurboTax deal excludes National Guard members and is only for enlisted ranks of E-1 to E-9. Free military filing might only include your federal return and you may be charged an additional fee for your state return.
Are pandemic tax-preparation discounts still available?
In 2020 and 2021, several of the major online and face-to-face tax preparation services offered discounts to frontline workers, including police officers, nurses, paramedics and firefighters. Unfortunately, it looks like these programs are no longer available. If you are aware of a frontline worker tax-preparation discount, send us a note so we can add it to this article.
Do you want to work with a public safety tax preparation specialist?
There are also firms that specialize in tax preparation for public safety professionals.
Specialized knowledge and experience of firms like Molen & Associates, who offers a free Law Enforcement Income Tax Checklist, or FirefightersFirst Tax Services, might help ensure you correctly receive eligible public safety deductions or tax credits, or submit income from a private security job or secondary employment.
I.A. Rozen & Associates, a Florida-based tax preparation firm, offers a discount to military personnel and first responders. PoliceTax.com, founded by Kevin Chinnock, a 15-year local and federal law enforcement veteran, offers a referral program that puts money in your pocket for each referral.
If you choose to work with an in-person tax preparer in your community, ask the firm to offer a discount to you and other first responders. Word-of-mouth in the station, as well as online reviews from a trusted first responder, can propel new clients to a local small business.
What about first responder discounts from ID.me, GovX or SheerID?
You may have already completed identify verification through ID.me, GovX or SheerID to receive discounts and cash-back offers from top national brand partners like Yeti, Carhartt, Verizon and Dell. Brand partners of these organizations may offer tax preparation discounts for first responders.
- GovX.com – at the time of this writing, there weren’t any tax preparation services in the GovX marketplace.
- ID.me – TurboxTax offers up to 20% off for first responders.
- SheerID – at the time of this writing, there weren’t any tax preparation services available to SheerID shoppers.
Check back each tax season with ID.me, GovZ and SheerID as their brand partners and discounts change regularly.
Can I get a discount through my insurance company or credit card?
It might pay to check on the benefits your insurance company, bank or credit card extends to members. For example, USAA, the life, home and auto insurance company for military personnel and their families, offers USAA perks, which includes 20% off Intuit TurboTax. Check with your insurance company, bank and credit card, to see if tax service discounts are available to you.
Is there tax filing software that’s not web-based?
Yes; if you don’t have reliable access to the internet or would prefer to install tax preparation software on your computer, the Intuit TurboTax products are available for purchase from Amazon and other online retailers.
Where can I ask questions about personal finance and working in public safety?
If you have questions about tax preparation and personal finance, send us an e-mail and we’ll consider answering them in a future article.