Free Tax Help, Just in Time

by Lynn B. Johnson on April 8, 2009

ClockI always purchase my tax-prep software the day it hits the shelves, and then I don’t file until about three minutes before the April 15 deadline. It’s a tradition, like wrapping gifts on Christmas Eve or overeating during the Super Bowl.

In any case, I know I’m more fortunate than a lot of folks out there who can’t do their taxes on their own, or those who need answers and additional help on their basic returns. If you’re lower-to-middle income, or above age 60, or an active member of our great military (or a family member of an active military member), there are places you can turn to get FREE help with tax preparation.

Best of all, these sites are legitimate because they’re listed on the IRS’s Web site, from which I’ve cribbed most the info below, because hey, imitation is truly the sincerest form of flattery, and flattering the IRS when one hasn’t already done her taxes seems like a smart strategy.

If you earn about $42,000 or less and cannot prepare your own tax return, there are certified and trained volunteers who will help you prepare your basic return through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA). Most locations are at neighborhood centers, libraries and the like, and most offer electronic filing. For more information or your nearest VITA site, call 1-800-829-1040.

The Tax Counseling for the Elderly program offers tax-preparation assistance by trained volunteers for people aged 60 and older. Additionally, as part of the IRS-sponsored TCE Program, AARP offers the Tax-Aide counseling program at more than 7,000 sites nationwide during the filing season. 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

VITA also serves members of the military. These VITA sites provide free tax advice, tax preparation, and assistance to military members and their families.  Volunteers are trained and equipped to address military specific tax issues, such as combat zone tax benefits and the effect of the new Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) guidelines. Commanders support the program by detailing service members to prepare returns and by providing space and equipment for tax centers. The IRS supports these efforts by providing tax software and by training service members to prepare taxes at the military sites. Call  1-800-829-1040 for VITA location assistance.

Information you will need to bring to your tax appointment includes:

  • Proof of identification
  • Social Security Cards for you, your spouse and dependents and/or a Social Security Number verification letter issued by the Social Security Administration
  • Birth dates for you, your spouse and dependents on the tax return
  • Current year’s tax package if you received one
  • Wage and earning statement(s) Form W-2, W-2G, 1099-R, from all employers
  • Interest and dividend statements from banks (Forms 1099)
  • A copy of last year’s Federal and State returns if available
  • Bank Routing Numbers and Account Numbers for Direct Deposit
  • Total paid for day care provider and the day care provider’s tax identifying number (the provider’s Social Security Number or the provider’s business Employer Identification Number)
  • To file taxes electronically on a married filing joint tax return, both spouses must be present to sign the required forms.

For more information on any of these services, call the associated phone number or visit the IRS Web page “Free Tax Return Preparation For You by Volunteers.” Don’t forget to file: the only sure things in life are taxes and death, and it’s looking like taxes are a bit more imminent, because hello, it’s already April.

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