The IRS collaborates with thousands of volunteers who help prepare tax return in their communities. According to the IRS, they assist in preparing millions of tax returns every year.
The two most common type of help organizations endorsed by the IRS are The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program and the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program.
Here are the highlights of each program.
The IRS-certified volunteers – VITA assist:
- People who earn $55,000 per year or less.
- People with disabilities.
- People with language barrier who need assistance filing the returns.
TCE individuals are typically IRS-certified retirees working for non-profit organizations that receive IRS grants. They offer:
- Tax help to all taxpayer with a focus on those 60-years old and older.
- Specialize in the areas of pensions and retirement.
The VITA and TCE volunteers will also analyze if you qualify for any credits or deductions. Some VITA and TCE locations are listed as Self-Prep. It means that you can file tax returns for free using a commercial software and eFile the returns. Whether you can file for free typically depends on your income and tax return complexity; site volunteers are able to walk you through the process. To locate VITA and TCE, follow this link.
Here is a checklist of what to bring to your VITA or TCE appointment:
- Picture ID.
- Social Security card – for all the individuals that will be listed on the return.
- ITIN if you don’t have a Social Security number.
- Birth dates.
- Income verification forms – W2, W2-G, 1099, etc.
- Income verification – interest.
- Income verification – dividends.
- Health Coverage Statement or Health Insurance Exemption Certificate.
- Copy of prior year tax returns.
- Checking account info for direct deposit.
- Info on total amount paid for daycare and the provider’s info (Soc.Sec number or EIN).
If you have a VITA appointment to apply for ITIN, bring a proof of foreign status. Also, if you plan to file taxes electronically as Married Filing Jointly, both taxpayers need to be present.
Last but not least, even though the location id where your returns were prepared go on the return, you, and not the volunteer, sign the document. Make sure you have a complete understanding of what went into the return and feel confident it’s correct before signing.
Few other options to get free tax help include:
- AARP Foundation Tax-Aide
- Preference for individuals 50 and older
- Low to moderate income
- You do not need to be a member of AARP
- For site locator, click here.
- IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center (TACs)
- Operate by appointment only
- Located at the local IRS offices
- Services may be limited and vary between TAC offices; before making an appointment check the list of available services by selecting the office you plan to visit.
- For locations, click here.
- Tax service for the military.
- Contact MilTax consultants at 800-342-9647.
- In person help at VITA centers.
- Calling instructions for service members abroad.
- More details here.
Keep in mind that the closer we get to the tax submission deadline, the harder it is going to be to schedule a meeting. For that reason alone, plan accordingly and schedule an appointment right now, even if you don’t have all the documents lined up. Vast majority of the locations usually stay open until mid-April. There are few that stay open all the way until the six-month extension deadline of October 15.