If you’ve been putting off dealing with your taxes the time to act is now! The April 18 deadline will be here sooner than you think, and missing it will hit you hard where it counts—in your wallet. But you don’t have to struggle through potentially confusing IRS forms on your own. Free assistance is out there, if you know where to look.
If you qualify, the IRS itself will help you complete your return. The IRS actually runs a few different programs devoted to helping taxpayers:
•Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA)
Certified VITA volunteers help low- to moderate-income taxpayers (generally those with an income below $49,000) prepare and file their returns. VITA volunteers usually set up shop at community centers, malls, libraries, and schools. For a list of VITA sites, call 1-800-906-9887.
•IRS tax offices and hotline
Visit any IRS office and you can ask as many tax-related questions as you like. You will not get help filing your return though, unless you meet income requirements. Alternatively, you can call the IRS’s phone help line at 1-800-829-1040 to get answers to your questions.
•Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE)
Anyone 60 and older is eligible for free tax help from this IRS program. Counseling is provided by expert volunteers from non-profit organizations. To find a TCE site near you, call 1-800-829-104.
•Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA) for military personnel
The Armed Forces Tax Council manages the military’s tax program throughout the world. Servicemen and women and their families can get free on-site tax help at bases and installations around the globe.
AARP Tax Aide
Now in its 43rd year, this program offers free assistance to anyone over 60, as well as low- to moderate-income taxpayers of any age. Volunteers are available in every state. To find a location near you, visit the AARP’s Tax Aide Locator http://www.aarp.org/applications/VMISLocator/searchTaxAideLocations.action.
Local Law School
If you have a tax issue that requires help from an attorney (e.g., an outstanding tax debt to settle with the IRS), contact a law school in your area. Many offer free or low-cost clinics in which law students assist the public in order to gain valuable experience. The students are backed up by licensed attorneys, so you can rest assured that your case is getting the expertise it deserves.