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I have mentioned before that I have completed tax returns for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA). If your are wondering what it is all about, here’s more information about the program:

Summary from the IRS website:

The VITA Program offers free tax help to low- to moderate-income (generally, $40,000 and below) people who cannot prepare their own tax returns. Certified volunteers sponsored by various organizations receive training to help prepare basic tax returns in communities across the country. VITA sites are generally located at community and neighborhood centers, libraries, schools, shopping malls, and other convenient locations. Most locations also offer free electronic filing. To locate the nearest VITA site, call 1-800-829-1040.

Locations

Many sites partner with local organizations or revenue departments and maintain an online list of VITA sites. Here are some I found:

Purpose

The IRS also sponsors a Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) Program for people age 60 and older. The idea behind both programs is to help people navigate through the difficult tax law and get money back into the hands of those who need it the most. For example those who qualify for the earned income credit, homestead credit, or Elderly Tax Credit. Without these programs, many filers who are due to get money back simply would not file.

My Experience

Our local site offers free efiling. We do not have an income limit at our site, but rather a requirement that the returns be straightforward. We target those who cannot afford paid assistance. However, we don’t want to keep volunteers idle either; often on slow days we will prepare other returns. When you call to find your local site, ask about the requirements.

Volunteering

If you have a basic knowledge of taxes, it is also a great organization to volunteer for:

  • During training, you review the new tax law changes for the year.
  • You learn about commonly missed items to watch for.
  • Often you can efile your own return during downtime. (This is encouraged during our training session to give you a dry run).
  • Tax returns are filed using Tax Wise software.

Many sites are beginning training sessions now and open in January and early February for filing. It’s a great organization to check out whether you want to use the service or volunteer!



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