The IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program offers free tax help to people who generally make $52,000 or less. There are IRS-certified volunteers at all VITA and TCE sites who are trained in basic tax law. Many locations have volunteers who speak other languages and can assist those who have difficulty communicating in English. Volunteers are also available to help visitors complete and file their own returns.
The Tax Counseling for the Elderly program offers free tax assistance for all with priority assistance to people who are 60 years of age and older, specializing in questions about pensions and retirement issues unique to seniors.
At select tax sites, you have an option to prepare your own free basic federal and state tax return using Web-based tax preparation software this year. This is helpful if you do not want to wait in line or need a little help to get started or do not have access to a computer or the internet.
In addition to free tax return preparation assistance, VITA and TCE sites provide free electronic filing. The IRS has partnerships with many nonprofit groups, government agencies and organizations that host tax preparation sites in local communities. With thousands of these sites throughout the nation, there is a very good chance there’s one conveniently located near you.
As a supplement to the traditional face-to-face approach for return preparation, some IRS partners have leveraged the power of technology to provide increased access to free tax preparation for individuals and families. Known as Virtual VITA/TCE, this program uses video chat software and secure file sharing technology to connect taxpayers and volunteer preparers in different geographic locations.
Partners establish a convenient location for you to complete the required paperwork (including a consent form outlining the process). Your information is then securely transmitted (by scanner, fax, etc.) to an IRS-certified volunteer at another location to complete the return. To guide you through the return preparation process, you’ll be able to communicate “virtually” with the preparer using video chat software or other technology provided by the sites.
If you have additional questions or want guideance through the process, you can always contact me as well.
Jéneen R. Perkins is a freelance accountant and consultant serving entrepreneurs, families and small businesses. She prides herself in being fluent in English instead of “Accountant-ese”.