Low and middle-class Americans making up to $60,000 a year are eligible for an exciting government program called Volunteer Income Tax Assistance or VITA. This community and IRS-sponsored program provides no-cost basic income tax preparation for millions of individuals, including the elderly and limited English speakers. This program is managed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury and delivered by certified volunteers in neighborhood and community centers, shopping malls, schools, and libraries, among other places. In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know to take advantage of this exciting free program!
- What Is a Tax Return?
- How the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program Works
- Additional VITA Benefits
- Who Qualifies for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance?
- How To Apply
- Where and How To Get Free Tax Assistance
- How Long Does It Take To File My Tax Return and Receive a Refund?
- Find Free Tax Preparation Service Today
What Is a Tax Return?
Every year, all working Americans must file a tax return, which is a statement of earnings or income that tax authorities use to determine tax liability. In other words, a tax return is how the government determines how much money you owe them based on your income.
Workers receive a form from their employers called a W2 that shows how much they made and all withholdings, which they will then use to fill out their income tax returns. If you receive income from other sources apart from your employer, you will also receive a 1099 form, which gives information on these additional earnings.
What Are Tax Deductions?
In addition to including all income in your tax return, you may qualify for deductions, which can lower or eliminate the amount you owe the government and may make it possible to receive a refund. Those making under $59,187 a year with qualifying children, may qualify for Earned Income Credit which reduces the amount of taxes owed by providing a credit toward the balance, and the less income you have, the greater your EIC.
Understanding the complexities involved with filing a tax return is essential, especially if you have dependents, which is why you should always use a certified tax preparation specialist. Fortunately, through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program qualifying individuals can receive professional income tax preparation and filing free of charge.
How the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program Works
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program utilizes IRS-certified tax preparers who volunteer their time to provide quality basic income tax preparation services, including electronic filing, to qualifying individuals. Volunteer Income Tax Assistance is available from January 24th to April 18th in all U.S. states.
There is no limit to how many times you can use VITA, as long as you qualify for the program you can access this helpful service.
Additional VITA Benefits
Along with preparing millions of free state and federal tax returns, volunteers working with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program can also help taxpayers with Facilitated Self-Assistance returns, which provide access to tax preparation services they can do by themselves.
Volunteers will walk you through the process of filing your own tax return, teaching you how to input your documents and forms. Unlike Volunteer Income Tax Assistance services, Facilitated Self-Assistance support does not require you to make an appointment to access their top-quality tax preparation software.
Another program connected with VITA is the Tax Counseling for the Elderly or TCE which assists seniors over the age of 60 with specialized questions regarding retirement and pensions. Some sites may also offer CAA services, where you can apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number or ITIN.
It is important to note that every Volunteer Income Tax Assistance site is unique and the services offered depend on the volunteer’s availability and experience with the tax laws required for each return. As such, certain locations may not offer all of the additional benefits.
Who Qualifies for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance?
Eligible individuals for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program include:
How To Apply
When attending your Volunteer Income Tax Assistance appointment you will need to bring the following documentation:
- Forms 1095-A, B, or C
- All W-2 and 1099 forms
- A copy of the previous year’s tax returns
- Birth dates for yourself, spouse, and dependents
- Social Security cards or Individual Taxpayer Identification cards for yourself, your spouse, and all dependents
- Government-issued photo ID for yourself and your spouse
- If filing married filing joint, both spouses must attend
Receiving a taxpayer identification number is crucial for anyone in the United States who is ineligible to receive a social security number since it allows you to report your earned income. To apply for an ITIN you must bring a W2 and a W7form, which is an Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number.
Where and How To Get Free Tax Assistance
Stations are generally set up inside libraries, schools, and community and shopping centers, making them easy to access but you must schedule an appointment by calling 1-800-906-9887 or using the VITA locator tool. Appointments are generally available within a few days, but factors like the number of volunteers, how many people are using the service, and available locations can increase your wait time.
How Long Does It Take To File My Tax Return and Receive a Refund?
The length of time it takes for a certified volunteer to complete your tax return depends on the complexity of your information. While the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program only accepts basic tax returns, aspects like the number of children you have and the amount of forms can affect the process length.
Completing your tax return generally only takes 30 minutes to an hour and it is efiled immediately. Once complete, the tax preparer electronically files the return and, if you are receiving a refund, it will be issued within six to eight weeks for paper checks or 21 days for direct deposit in most cases.
The speed you receive your refund depends on a few factors including whether you’re using direct deposit and if you’re using the same account as the previous year. Visit the FDIC website to find out more information on locating a bank so you can open an online account and receive your income tax return faster.
Electronic filing is the best way to submit your return as it ensures the IRS receives it quickly and can alert you to any mistakes or changes that must be made.
Find Free Tax Preparation Service Today
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program helps low to middle-class Americans, senior citizens, the disabled, and limited English speakers receive professional income tax preparation free of charge. You must earn less than $63,000 a year and additional services are available. Local stations are set up in all U.S. states, making it easy to file your basic income tax returns at no cost.