Tax tips: How to get free help with taxes

You can’t get away with not paying your taxes, but there are ways to file your tax return without shelling out much additional cash.

The Internal Revenue Service and other agencies offer a number of programs to help people file their taxes for free, or get basic tax questions answered without paying fees.

(Read moreDon’t make these costly tax mistakes)

But be warned: If you’re seeking help, you may need to be patient. In a blistering report to Congress earlier this month, the National Taxpayer Advocate chided the IRS for taking a long time to answer calls from taxpayers and for not getting to many calls at all, because of budget cuts.

Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson, who represents taxpayer concerns at the IRS, also noted that the agency can offer even less personalized assistance to taxpayers this year, either by phone or in person, because of cost.

The IRS said in a statement that it is working hard to balance its obligations given its limited resources.

(Read moreHow to keep IRS auditors at bay)

Here’s what is available to taxpayers who need extra help.

Free File: The Internal Revenue Service has partnered with 14 commercial tax software providers to offer free tax preparation software to households with income under $58,000 a year.

Free forms: If your income is over $58,000 a year, you can still file your taxes for free, but you may have to work a bit harder. Beginning Jan. 31, the IRS will offer electronic versions of its paper forms for free, so people can fill out their tax forms electronically without paying a tax preparation service or buying pricey software.

AARP Foundation Tax-Aide: The AARP’s foundation provides free tax assistance for low- to moderate-income households via walk-in clinics and a toll-free help line. The volunteer program pays special attention to those 60 and over, but you do not need to be a retiree or even an AARP member to get help.

(Read moreWhat same-sex couples need to know about taxes) The agency may not be able to get to everyone who calls, but it has tried to beef up its website. This is a good place to check on the status of your refund, get basic guidance on issues such as same-sex marriage and check on potential tax scams.

The interactive tax assistant also may be able to answer basic questions about things such as applicable tax breaks.

Low Income Taxpayer Clinic: If you have had a problem with the IRS and your income is below a certain level you may be able to get help from a Low Income Taxpayer Clinic. These clinics, which receive some government funding, help people who are being audited or owe the IRS money.

National Taxpayer Advocate: If you are having a problem with the IRS that you can’t resolve and it is causing financial difficulties or other problems, the advocate may be able to help. Billing itself as the voice of taxpayers at the IRS, the office offers help through state and national offices.

—By CNBC’s Allison Linn. Follow her on Twitter @allisondlinn or send her an email.

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