You know there’s Free File, but you’d really feel more comfortable getting some face-to-face help filling out your taxes.
The problem is you don’t have a lot of money to pay for accredited tax assistance.
Good news. You might qualify for free, in-person tax help.
No-cost tax return preparation and e-filing is available at nearly 12,000 Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) sites across the United States.
These filing-season help centers — whose office numbers earn it this week’s By the Numbers honor, as well as make it a special weekend Daily Tax Tip — generally are located at community and neighborhood centers.
Tax help for specific filers: The VITA program provides no-cost tax assistance to individuals who generally make $54,000 or less, persons with disabilities, the elderly and individuals with limited English proficiency who need assistance in preparing their taxes.
The TCE program offers free tax help for all taxpayers, particularly those who are 60 and older.
Both types of offices are staffed by Internal Revenue Service-certified volunteers who are trained to help with many tax questions and filing situations.
What to bring: As in all filing situations, the key is being ready. Before heading to a VITA or TCE site, the IRS suggests you review its Publication 3676-B for details on the services provided.
You’ll also need to bring all required documents and information in order to get your taxes done at one of the volunteer tax locations. This includes:
- Proof of identification (a photo ID) for the taxpayer and spouse if filing a joint return;
- Social Security cards for the taxpayer, spouse and dependents;
- An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) assignment letter may be substituted for those who do not have a Social Security number;
- Proof of foreign status, if applying for an ITIN;
- Birth dates for the taxpayer, spouse and dependents;
- Wage and earning statements (for example, Forms W-2, W-2G, 1099-R, 1099-Misc) from all employers and other payers;
- Interest and dividend statements from banks (1099 forms);
- Health Insurance Exemption Certificate (if received);
- 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 such as their Social Security number or business Employer Identification Number (EIN);
- Forms 1095-A, B and C, Health Coverage Statements; and
- Copies of income transcripts from the IRS and state tax departments, if applicable.
In addition to providing free tax return preparation help, most VITA and TCE sites also will file returns electronically for free.
Military help sites, too: The military and the IRS also provide free tax assistance to military personnel and their families through the Armed Forces Tax Council (AFTC), which 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, and serves as the main conduit for outreach by the IRS to military personnel and their families. Volunteers can also address military specific tax issues, such as combat zone tax benefits and the effect of the EITC guidelines.
Again, as with VITA and TCE locations, the military tax help offices typically will e-file service members’ tax returns for free.
If you qualify for any of the free tax preparation and filing options, be it Free File, VITA, TCE or AFTC, take advantage of the service. The sites will be operating through the April 18 filing deadline.
And be sure to thank the folks who volunteer their time and expertise to help folks fulfill their tax responsibilities at no cost.
You also might find these items of interest:
- 5 tax tips for Free File users
- New on more W-2 forms this year: a verification code
- Report all your income, even if you don’t get official tax documentation