Get free, in-person tax help at VITA, TCE and military sites
Saturday, February 07, 2015
If you can afford to hire a tax professional to help you file your returns, good for you.
A lot of folks, however, are not able to come up with the money for a paid preparer.
Free File can be a big help, allowing anyone with adjusted gross income of $60,000 or less to use the no-cost online tax preparation and e-filing service.
But if you want a more personal tax help touch, you've got options, too.
Free tax help from trained volunteers: There are more than 12,000 free tax preparation sites -- those numerous tax help locations earn this week's By the Numbers honor -- open across the country this year as part of the Internal Revenue Service's expanded partnership with nonprofit and community organizations.
These sites provide tax preparation services for low- to-moderate-income and elderly taxpayers. There's also free tax help out there for our men and women in uniform.
Trained and certified community volunteers help eligible taxpayers claim credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), the child tax credit or credit for the elderly. Many of the sites also have multilingual volunteers who can assist people in languages with which they are more comfortable.
Viva VITA: Probably the most well-known free tax help is through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, or VITA, program.
VITA is available for folks who meet the income requirements. For the 2015 filing season, that's generally for people who earn $53,000 and less.
TCB with TCE: Elvis' motto, taking care of business or TCB, is a perfect for TCE, or the Tax Counseling for the Elderly program.
Through the IRS-sponsored TCE program, AARP offers the Tax-Aide counseling program at more than 7,000 sites nationwide throughout the filing season.
Trained and certified AARP Tax-Aide volunteer counselors help all taxpayers, but special attention is given to taxpayers age 60 and older.
Bring the proper paperwork: You can find the nearest VITA or TCE site by using the IRS' online locator tool. If you have a smartphone, the IRS' IRS2GO app also can help you find tax help locations.
Once you know where to go, gather all the necessary documentation you'll need to bring. This includes:
- Proof of identification (photo ID)
- Social Security cards for you, your spouse and dependents; an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) assignment letter may be substituted if you, your spouse and your dependents do not have a Social Security number
- Proof of foreign status if applying for an ITIN
- Birth dates for you, your spouse and dependents on the tax return
- Wage and earning statements (Form W-2, W-2G, 1099-R, 1099-Misc) from all employers
- Interest and dividend statements from banks (Forms 1099)
- A copy of last year's federal and state returns, if available
- Proof of bank account routing and account numbers for direct deposit such as a blank check
- To file taxes electronically on a married-filing-joint tax return, both spouses must be present to sign the required forms
- Total amount paid for daycare services and the daycare provider's tax identifying number, either the individual caregiver's Social Security number or a business Employer Identification Number (EIN)
- Forms 1095-A, Affordable Health Care Statement, if you bought health insurance through an exchange
- Copies of income transcripts from IRS and state, if applicable
Armed forces filing assistance: The U.S. military also partners with the IRS to provide free tax assistance to service personnel and their families.
The Armed Forces Tax Council, or AFTC, consists of the tax program coordinators for the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. The AFTC oversees the operation of the military tax programs worldwide.
Volunteers are trained and equipped to address military-specific tax issues, such as combat zone tax benefits and the EITC.
In addition to providing free tax return preparation assistance, most of these sites also will e-file returns at no cost.
If you are eligible for any free in-person tax help, take it.
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