Taxpayers with incomes of $51,000 or less and taxpayers age 60 or older are eligible for free tax return preparation through two Internal Revenue Service (IRS) programs, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program and the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program.
Volunteers, certified by the IRS, serve in communities throughout the country to help taxpayers complete tax forms and electronically file their returns.
The VITA program
VITA volunteers will assist those with incomes of $51,000 or less complete and electronically file basic tax returns. The volunteers identify available tax credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit. For taxpayers that complete their own returns, volunteers at VITA locations can answer general questions.
These sites are located at central points in the communities they serve, such as schools and libraries, and are open for the duration of the tax season, mid-January through April 15. Most sites require an appointment. To locate a VITA site, visit the IRS VITA Locator Tool.
The TCE program
This program offers free tax preparation help to those ages 60 or older. The IRS awards grants to qualifying organizations, such as the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), to defray the costs to volunteers for providing this service. TCE volunteers specialize in tax codes related to pensions and other issues that specifically affect this age group. The elderly may access this program anytime during the tax filing season. To find a TCE site, visit the TCE locator.
Taxpayers seeking tax return preparation at a VITA or TCE site need to bring the following documents:
- Photo ID
- Social Security card
- Wage and earning statements (W-2, W-2G, 1099-Misc, 1099-R)
- Interest and dividend statements (1099)
- Copy of last year’s tax return, if available
Couples filing jointly must both be present to sign forms for electronic filing. Taxpayers wishing to have their refund directly deposited in their bank account must have proof of their bank routing number and their account number. A blank check may serve as this proof.
Taxpayers who paid for childcare will need their child care provider’s tax identification number to take the child and dependent care credit.
The IRS also offers free filing options at their website for taxpayers that do not need assistance.