Free tax preparation assistance is available in-person and online.
The IRS sponsors the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs.
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) is a free alternative to paid tax preparation. The IRS sponsors the VITA program which community based organizations organize locally. VITA volunteers are trained according to IRS guidelines to fill out basic tax forms, including the ones needed to claim the EITC and the CTC. Volunteers must pass an annual exam to prepare tax returns. All tax returns undergo a quality review before VITA sites submit them to the IRS.
VITA sites are located in community action agencies, churches, libraries, public assistance offices, shopping malls, community colleges, and other public places. VITA sites are generally open from late January through April 15, although hours may be limited. Some sites also operate year-round. Many VITA sites file tax forms electronically, or can arrange for this to be done later at a central location. Filing electronically — having a return completed by computer — helps filers get a faster turn-around on a refund and makes it less likely that incomplete forms will be filed. This helps avoid refund delays and provides an alternative to expensive commercial fees.
The Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program is sponsored by the IRS, often in conjunction with the AARP Tax-Aide Program. Although its main purpose is to assist seniors, TCE also can help lower-income workers of all ages file tax returns. Identify AARP Tax-Aide site locations.
ONLINE TAX PREPARATION
Allows people with income less than $64,000 to file both federal and state tax returns for free. The website uses H&R Block software and provides free guidance through a helpline, email, or online chat.
Marketing tools including video and radio public service announcements are available online. For questions or more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Free File Alliance
In 2003, the IRS began a partnership with the Free File Alliance, a consortium of companies that provide free online tax preparation and electronic filing. Workers earning less than about $64,000 can use the online tax filing system at no charge to file federal returns. (Some companies may charge to file state tax returns.) These programs are available on the IRS website starting in January.
Note: Tax Credit Outreach Campaigns should use caution in promoting this service since some companies charge extra fees for answering tax questions or offer financial products that aren’t needed to file a tax return.
Facilitated Self Assistance
Facilitated Self Assistance (FSA) combines the convenience of online tax preparation with the reassurance of in-person assistance from trained volunteers. This option helps VITA sites expand their services by allowing people with simple tax situations who are comfortable using computers to file their own returns and get help as needed. Many VITA programs make their computers available to lower-income workers and deliver FSA through MyFreeTaxes or the Free File Alliance. Tax returns submitted through FSA are counted as VITA returns.
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