Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Free tax preparation available for millions of families

Millions of individuals and families can have their tax returns filed free. The IRS sponsors two programs with thousands of sites across the country, available to people with lower and moderate incomes:
  • Volunteer Income Tax Assistance: The VITA program offers free tax return preparation for eligible taxpayers who generally earn $55,000 or less.
  • Tax Counseling for the Elderly: TCE is mainly for people age 60 or older but offers service to all taxpayers. The program focuses on tax issues unique to seniors. AARP participates in this program through AARP Tax-Aide.
The IRS works with local community groups to certify thousands of volunteers who are trained in the latest tax law. Eligible taxpayers should consider taking advantage of these free programs. This includes people with disabilities and people who speak limited English.
Here are some additional details about these two programs:
  • Free tax prep around the country. The IRS works with community organizations to offer free tax help at thousands of sites nationwide. Most of these sites are open now.
  • Free electronic filing. VITA and TCE provide free electronic filing. E-file is the safest, most accurate way to file a tax return. Taxpayers can combine e-file with direct deposit for quicker refunds.
  • Volunteer preparers trained to help find tax benefits. Certified volunteers help people get all the tax benefits for which they are eligible. These include the earned income tax creditAmerican opportunity tax creditcredit for the elderlychild tax credit and credit for other dependents.
  • Bilingual help. Some VITA and TCE sites provide bilingual assistance.
  • Help for military. Many military bases have VITA sites offering free tax assistance to members of the military and their families. Volunteers can help with military tax topics, which include special rules and tax benefits that apply to those serving in combat zones.
  • Self-preparation option. At many VITA sites, people who earn $66,000 or less may be able to prepare their own tax returns. They can do this by using free web-based software. This option is for those who do not have a home computer and do not need much help.
  • Site information available on IRS.gov. Taxpayers can find the nearest VITA site by using the VITA Locator on IRS.gov. Sites are currently open, but the IRS is still adding some to the locator. Taxpayers can also find sites by downloading the IRS2Go app or calling the IRS at 800-906-9887. Find more on AARP Tax-Aide locations by using the AARP Locator.

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