Americans who earn annual incomes of $58,000 or less might not be aware that the IRS offers free help in preparing tax returns — something that could come in handy this tax season due to more complex returns tied to child tax credit and stimulus payments.
The free service is available through the IRS’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly programs. The VITA program, which is more than 50 years old, offers free tax help to people who need assistance in preparing their own tax returns, the IRS said on its website. Here is who qualifies:
- People who generally make $58,000 or less
- Persons with disabilities
- Taxpayers who speak limited English
The TCE program mainly offers free tax help to taxpayers who are 60 and older. It specializes in questions about pensions and retirement-related issues unique to seniors.
Although the IRS manages the VITA and TCE programs, the VITA/TCE sites are operated by IRS partners and staffed by IRS-certified volunteers who provide tax counseling. All volunteers who prepare returns must take and pass tax law training that meets or exceeds IRS standards.
The IRS also requires a quality review check for every return prepared at a VITA/TCE site prior to filing. Each filing season, tens of thousands of these volunteers prepare millions of federal and state returns. They also assist taxpayers with the preparation of thousands of Facilitated Self-Assistance returns.
“This can be a good option for someone who isn’t comfortable doing their own taxes but still wants to take advantage of a free filing program,” Nell Curtis, an accounting instructor at Milwaukee Area Technical College in Wisconsin, told Forbes.
Available services vary at each site due to the availability of certified volunteers. VITA and TCE sites are usually located at community and neighborhood centers, libraries, schools, shopping malls and other public locations across the country. To locate the nearest VITA or TCE site near you, use this VITA Locator Tool or call 800-906-9887.
Before going to a VITA or TCE site, the IRS recommends reviewing Publication 3676-B, which you’ll find here, to see what services are provided. You should also check out this “What To Bring” page to make sure you have all the required documents and information.
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