Free Tax Preparation and Filing

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					Volunteer Income Tax Assistance ProgramAs a former tax preparation
volunteer during my military service days, I am always taken aback and
appalled at the number of people who pay hard earned and tough saved
dollars to have their basic income taxes forms prepared and filed for
them - there is free tax assistance programs for most Americans! Every
year millions of American taxpayers shell out their hard earned money in
getting their income taxes prepared and filed from them. If your are
dolling out dollars for your tax preparation every year, make sure that
you do not qualify for free tax preparation help through one of the
following tax preparation assistance programs that are likely available
right in your own community. Some tax preparation assistance programs are
income based eligible while others are age based for senior citizens, or
even military specific without regard to income or age.The Volunteer
Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program is available in most U.S. cities and
communities, but it is income based, meaning that to qualify for the
preparation and filing assistance, tax payers must generally make less
than $50,000 and cannot prepare their own taxes. While the IRS maintains
a partial list of VITA sites throughout the U.S. it is not all inclusive
so it may be best to check with your local IRS office for known
community-based sites; you're not likely to find out from the local H&R
Block or Jackson-Hewitt tax preparation office - check you local phone
book, newspaper or with community based organizations for a more complete
listing of VITA sites in your area. The IRS has set up a toll-free number
for checking for local VITA sites; 800-906-9887.Military Free Tax Help
Also under the VITA program, in conjunction with the Armed Forces Tax
Council (AFTC), is free tax preparation help to military members and
their family. As the military has many special provisions, allowances,
additional deductions or exclusions, the VITA program is essential in
addressing these military specific issues such as combat zone pay
exclusions, basic allowance for housing (BAH) issues, and the ever
volatile Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) which is a tricky issues for
military members receiving BAH, BAS (basic allowance for sustenance) or
other compensations in kind that are not directly gross pay entitlements.
VITA members working with the military and their families receive
specialized training specific to military tax issues.As a former TAO (tax
assistance officer) while I was in the military, I was thoroughly
impressed with the fact that each year every TAO was required to undergo
training and updated modules of tax training to better perform this
volunteer task and to be best suited to assist fellow military personnel.
With no intended disrespect to other "tax professionals" it is a simple
reality that military tax issues require a specialized tax trained person
versed in military pay, benefits and compensation matters. That "Q" in
block 13 of the W2 is a big number - what does it mean? A military VITA
volunteer will know!Specially trained VITA military tax preparation
volunteers are versed in the most common situations that face most
military personnel. This vital and military specific assistance helps
ensure accuracy in filing and expediency in receiving refund; most are
electronically filed for the service member and refunds are generally
received in about one week's time. Free Senior Citizen Tax Preparation
The definition of senior citizen and "elderly" is subjective - most of
the time. For IRS and VITA purposes, we are subjecting those aged 60 or
older to this term for the purposes of receiving free tax preparation and
filing. The VITA program in conjunction with the Tax Counseling for the
Elderly (TCE) works with community based non-profit organizations to
provide free, basic tax counseling and basic tax return preparation. I
emphasize basic here because those these volunteers receive IRS training,
they are not tax professionals - if you have the need to file every
schedule and form under the IRS code then you are likely in need of a
professional, not a community trained volunteer.DIY Tax PreparationIf you
have a basic tax return to prepare, don't shy away from the ability to do
it yourself. There are a number of free online programs that you can use
to complete you income tax return, or even if your return is a little
left of basic, you can purchase tax software programs that will guide you
through even seemingly difficult tax situations with ease.Stop Paying for
Tax Preparation and FilingThe bottom line is that millions of American
taxpayers spend money every year for tax preparation and filing when free
assistance from VITA, TCE, AFTC, private and civic organizations (Senior
Centers, American Legion, etc.) exists, and barring that, many free
online programs or inexpensive tax preparation software programs exists
to keep more money in the taxpayers pocket by not hiring out to expensive
professional help when it is not likely necessary.

				
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