February 09, 2009



Numerous resources are available to assist the majority of taxpayers with free tax preparation assistance as well as free electronic filing of tax forms. Trained community volunteers are now available through the VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) Program or the Tax Counseling for the Elderly Program. These free programs are a tremendous boon to consumers as they provide an avenue to avoid tax preparation fees as well as costly refund anticipation loans.

In addition to free assistance in preparing tax returns, most sites also provide free electronic tax filing (e-file). E-filing will enable you to receive your refund more quickly and also offers options for directly depositing the refund into checking, savings, IRAs, and other types of accounts.

Check dates and times of service availability in advance. Some services will not be offered 8-5 Monday through Friday as locations are staffed by volunteers. Many offices, however, will offer some evening and weekend hours.

The VITA Program offers free tax help to low- to moderate-income (generally, $42,000 and below) people needing assistance in preparing their own tax returns. VITA sites are generally located at community centers, libraries, schools, and other convenient/accessible locations. To locate the nearest VITA site, call: 1-800-829-1040.

The military also has a strong VITA Program. Marines, airmen, soldiers, sailors, guardsmen, and their families receive free tax preparation assistance at offices within their installations. These sites provide free tax information, tax preparation, and assistance to military members and their families. The primary distinction with this and other VITA sites is the ability to work with individuals that are trained and equipped to address military-specific tax issues.

The Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) Program provides free tax help to people aged 60 and older. In conjunction with the IRS-sponsored TCE Program, AARP offers their Tax-Aide counseling program at more than 7,000 sites nationwide during the filing season (February 1 – April 15). Trained and certified AARP Tax-Aide volunteer counselors help people of low-to-middle income with special attention to those ages 60 and older. For more information on TCE call 1-800-829-1040. To locate the nearest AARP Tax-Aide site, call 1-888-227-7669 or visit the AARP Tax-Aide website.

Documents you will need to bring with you
-- Proof of identification
-- Social Security cards for all parties
-- Birth dates for all parties
-- Wage and earning statements for all income (i.e., W-2s)
-- Interest and dividend statements (Forms 1099)
-- A copy of last year’s Federal and State tax returns (when possible)
-- Bank account and routing numbers (for direct deposit)
-- Day care info (amount paid, provider tax identifying number)

-- Current Tax Info (deductions, exemptions, tax brackets, etc.)
-- Do I Have To File? (typically worthwhile even if you don’t “have to”)
-- Education Tax Benefits
-- Federal Tax Forms
-- Free File Online Tax Preparation Sites
-- State Tax Forms
-- Understanding Taxes (interactive IRS tutorial)