Tax laws are so complex many taxpayers don’t feel comfortable filing out their own returns, but getting professional help can be expensive.
Believe it or not, the Internal Revenue Service wants to help.
In addition to its online Free File service, which offers name-brand software at no cost for taxpayers with adjusted gross income of $57,000 or less, the IRS sponsors programs that bring together trained tax preparers and those who need help with their returns.
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly programs both operate in conjunction with local governments and social service agencies, libraries and other community organizations to make the help easy to access.
The VITA program: VITA features IRS-certified volunteers who provide free basic income tax return preparation to qualified individuals, mainly those who earn $50,000 or less.
The volunteers can help make sure taxpayers don’t overlook special credits, such as the earned income tax credit, child tax credit, and credit for the elderly or the disabled.
Most VITA program sites offer free electronic filing, which helps speed up the refund process.
The TCE program: TCE offers free tax help for everyone, but its main focus is people over 60.
The volunteers specialize in questions about pensions and retirement issues unique to seniors. IRS-certified volunteers who provide tax counseling are often retired individuals associated with nonprofit organizations like AARP, which receive grants to offer the service.
To find a location offering VITA assistance, visit the IRS website at http://1.usa.gov/qO22 , or call 800-906-9887. To locate a TCE site, seniors may also click on the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide website at http://aarp.us/baDshn or call the Tax-Aide information line at 888-227-7669 to locate a TCE site.
Self-assistance: Some of the VITA and TCE program locations may also offer guides to help taxpayers use the self-assistance services, which are provided for those who need only a little help or simply need access to a computer. IRS-certified volunteers are on hand to answer questions that arise as individuals are preparing their own returns.