The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program provides free tax returns and preparation services.
The federal government sponsored VITA program provides free tax preparation and filing services near you. There is assistance for low to moderate income households, the disabled, and English as Second Language speakers. The government will also pay for the completion of state and federal government income returns for low to moderate income families, and find how and where to apply for VITA below.
Relying on local volunteers, charities and non-profit agencies, the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program provides free tax help. This includes advice, guidance, and preparation services to families and individuals who earn less than around $65,000 per year. There are also free filing and preparation services given to the disabled as well as limited English speaking taxpayers (including Spanish) from VITA.
As part of the free IRS supported VITA program, well trained professionals and other IRS certified volunteers have received extensive training to help people prepare basic state and federal government income tax returns. This service is available for free in local communities across the country.
There are usually almost 20,000 tax preparation sites open across the country. This means that the free service is widely available as well as easily accessible. The federal government and the Internal Revenue Service want to allow as many people as possible to access this assistance program. The government has partnered with numerous charities, local nonprofits and community action organizations to both publicize it and offer it.
All of these groups have combined their resources together and they provide critical tax preparation services for low to moderate income as well as elderly taxpayers. The VITA program will ensure clients get the credits and deductions they are entitled too, and the service will try its best to minimize any taxes they need to pay. They will even offer free e-filing to those who need their returns sooner rather than later.
How to prepare for free VITA filing services
There are some conditions and criteria in place. Taxpayers need to come prepared, and they will bring to the VITA sites the following items and documentation.
- A valid Social Security card for the taxpayer, any dependents, their spouse, and anyone else who needs a return completed.
- Photo identification.
- Come with birth dates/certificates for all parties, including the primary, secondary and any dependents who will be on the tax return.
- All of their wage and earning statement(s), such as Form W-2, W-2G, 1099-R, and anything else from all employers.
- Current year's tax package and details on their income and expenses
- Data on all forms of income, including interest and dividend statements from banks (Forms 1099)
- A copy of last year's state and federal returns, showing your income as well as deductions, if available.
- Total amount paid for day care over the year, if applicable.
- Their day care provider's identifying number.
- information on health insurance, including a 1095-A, B and C or other Health Coverage Statements
- Bank routing numbers and bank account numbers for direct deposit of their refund.
- Any other relevant information about income and their expenses.
- If they want to file their taxes electronically for free, both spouses need to be present to sign the required tax forms.
Tax credit information
The programs are extensive in what they offer and try to accomplish. VITA can guide filers through the various federal or state government credits, deductions and assistance programs. For example, well trained community volunteers and other tax professionals can help eligible taxpayers, for free, with filing for all special credits, such as the Child Tax, EITC, spousal support, elder care, or the Credit for the Elderly.
In addition, many of the sites and locations have language specialists to assist people with limited English skills, so people of all backgrounds can receive help. There may be Spanish speaking volunteers and other areas covered. Often times the tax professional can even provide some guidance on how to get help with other taxes, such as property taxes.
Free electronic filing
Another service provided by the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program is free efiling. Note both spouses need to be available and agree to this. So in addition to the free income tax return preparation assistance that is offered, the vast majority of sites also use electronic filing for their clients, which is another major benefit to using the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program.
This is a tremendous benefit to low income families, as those individuals who take advantage of the federal government e-file program will receive their tax refunds in half the time compared to returns filed on paper. Those taxpayers who use both direct deposit and e-file can receive their tax refund in as few as 10 days. Having the cash in that short period of time can help people pay bills, rent, their mortgage, or even just save the money.
How do you find a free tax preparation site
While the VITA locations are usually located at community and neighborhood centers, such as schools, your local library, shopping malls, county offices, and other convenient locations, your best path is to visit the irs.gov site and search for the VITA program. Or what is probably even easier is to contact your local community action agency. They are one of the leading non-profits that run the program.
The community action agency can direct you to free tax preparation locations and specialists near you as they are often closely involved in the administration of it. Another benefit is those offices can direct you to other assistance programs, for housing, IRS challenges and more. The non-profits can often provide additional financial support in addition to the free VITA service.