If you need tax help filing your federal income taxes, look no further than the IRS itself.
And don’t worry: the IRS isn’t out to get you.
On the contrary, the IRS has more than 12,000 free tax preparation sites nationwide as part of an ongoing effort by the Internal Revenue Service to team up with non-profit agencies and community groups throughout the U.S. to better aid taxpayers.
The goal is to offer important and much-needed tax preparation services to large groups of taxpayers all across the country.
Who stands to benefit most? Three segments of the population:
low-to-moderate income households
members of the military
If you or someone you know falls into one of those categories, here’s where you can get help.
Help For Low to Moderate Income Households
For starters, the IRS has a popular program called VITA, or Volunteer Income Tax Assistance. This program provides free tax help to those making $50,000 or less annually.
The IRS has already kicked off a nationwide campaign to tell eligible taxpayers about the free tax prep help that’s available, as well as the Earned Income Tax Credit, which can put thousands of dollars into many people’s pockets.
But to get that money, you must file a tax return and claim the EITC. To locate the nearest VITA site, call 800-906-9887.
Free Tax Help and Preparation Service for the Elderly
Additionally, the TCE Program, better known as Tax Counseling for the Elderly, offers free tax assistance to U.S. taxpayers aged 60 and above. The TCE Program is an IRS-sponsored initiative that functions in cooperation with AARP. Trained and certified AARP volunteers offer the Tax-Aide counseling program at more than 7,000 sites nationwide during the tax-filing season.
This help is available to low-to-middle income people, particularly taxpayers who are 60 and older. To locate the nearest AARP Tax-Aide site, call 888-227-7669 or visit AARP’s website at http://www.AARP.org.
To get free tax help via the IRS or one of its community-based partners, the IRS recommends that you go to a VITA center or locate a TCE program near you and bring the follow items in order to have your tax returns prepared:
Valid Social Security cards for the taxpayer, spouse and dependents
Birth dates for primary, secondary and dependents on the tax return
Wage and earning statement(s) Form W-2, W-2G, 1099-R, from all employers
Interest and dividend statements from banks (Forms 1099)
A copy of last year’s federal and state returns, if available
Bank routing numbers and account numbers for direct deposit
Other relevant information about income and expenses
Total paid for day care
Day care provider’s identifying number
If you’re married, and you want to file an electronic return with the tax filing status “Married Filing Jointly,” both you and your spouse must show up in order to sign all required forms.
Tax Help and Assistance for Military Personnel
The U.S. military also partners with the IRS in offering free tax assistance to military personnel as well as their families. Several groups are involved including: the Armed Forces Tax Council (AFTC), which consists of the tax program coordinators for the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.
Volunteers in this division are specially trained to know and explain tax issues that impact military members, such as combat zone tax benefits and the effect of the EITC guidelines.
Most IRS tax assistance sites use free electronic filing, which can net you a speedier income tax refund. The IRS says people who e-file their returns and use direct deposit can get a check as quickly as 10 days after filing.
Tips for the Do It Yourself Tax Filer
If you’d like to prepare and e-file your own tax returns, there’s a no cost option for you too: it’s called IRS Free File. It’s free as long as you made under $57,000 last year.
According to the IRS, everyone can use Free File, the free way to prepare and e-file federal taxes either through brand-name software or online fillable forms. Free File Fillable Forms, the electronic version of IRS paper forms, has no income restrictions.
But if you’re an individual or a family with 2011 adjusted gross incomes of $57,000 or less, you can use Free File software.
For either service (the fillable forms or the Free File software), you have to go through www.irs.gov/freefile to access the programs.
Still need more help or have other questions?
Contact any of 400 IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers nationwide for free assistance. The locations are spread all throughout the country and are listed on www.IRS.gov.