How to select a tax preparer and FREE tax help options the VITA/TCE Program

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1 JOHN BENSON BUSINESS BRIEF Website: December USA FEDERAL TAXES //// How to select a tax preparer and FREE tax help options the VITA/TCE Program NEWSLETTER BY: John Benson, December Do you o Use the same preparer you always have? o Look in the Yellow Pages for someone close to home or with a large ad? o Ask your friends and neighbors for suggestions? o Use an online tax preparer? All are valid options however, if you pay someone to prepare your income tax return, the IRS urges you to choose wisely. As a taxpayer, you are legally responsible for everything reported on your tax return; whether you prepare it yourself or have someone else prepare it for you. Below are some helpful tips in selecting an individual or company to prepare your taxes. While the majority of tax preparers are knowledgeable, honest and professional, there are always some who, as the saying goes, give everyone else a bad name. o Check the person or company s qualifications o Check the preparer s history o Ask about their service fees o Make sure they are accessible after the April due date in case you have a question about your return The preparer you choose should: o Ask you to provide all receipts and records needed to prepare your return o Never ask you to sign a blank return o Have you review the entire return before you sign it o Sign the return and include their preparer tax identification number Where can I go for FREE tax preparation? Free tax return preparation by IRS certified volunteers. The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program or VITA offers free tax preparation for low- to moderate-income individuals (generally, $50,000 and below). Most locations also offer free electronic filing. To locate the nearest VITA site, check IRS.gov, or call beginning in early January. Tax Counseling for the Elderly. The TCE program provides free tax help for people aged 60 and older. As part of the IRS-sponsored TCE Program, AARP also offers the Tax-Aide counseling program at more than 7,000 sites nationwide during the filing season. For more information on TCE, call To locate the nearest AARP Tax-Aide site, call or visit AARP's website. Cont 2/

2 - 2 - Free tax help for military personnel and their families - The Armed Forces Tax Council consists of the tax program coordinators for the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. Active duty members and their families worldwide receive free tax preparation assistance at offices within their installations. These VITA sites provide free tax advice, tax preparation, and assistance to military members and their families. They are trained and equipped to address military specific tax issues, such as combat zone tax benefits and the effect of the Earned Income Tax Credit guidelines. Free Tax Return Preparation for You by Volunteers The IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) Programs offer free tax help for taxpayers who qualify. VITA The VITA Program generally offers free tax help to people who make $50,000 or less and need assistance in preparing their own tax returns. IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic income tax return preparation to qualified individuals in local communities. They can inform taxpayers about special tax credits for which they may qualify such as Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, and Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled. VITA sites are generally located at community and neighborhood centers, libraries, schools, shopping malls, and other convenient locations. Most locations also offer free electronic filing. Find a VITA site near you or call TCE The TCE Program offers free tax help for all with priority assistance to people who are 60 years of age and older, specializing in questions about pensions and retirement issues unique to seniors. IRS-certified volunteers who provide tax counseling are often retired individuals associated with non-profit organizations that receive grants from the IRS. Find an AARP Tax-Aide, site near you or call for more information on TCE Facilitated Self-Assistance In addition to traditional face-to-face tax preparation, the IRS is launching a self-assistance service at select locations. If individuals have a simple tax return and need a little help or do not have access to a computer, they can visit one of the participating tax preparation sites and an IRS-certified volunteer will guide them through the process. Cont 3/

3 - 3 - Find a Facilitated Self-Assistance site near you Items you need to bring to the VITA/TCE sites to have your tax returns prepared: Proof of identification Picture ID Social Security Cards for you, your spouse and dependents or a Social Security Number verification letter issued by the Social Security Administration or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) assignment letter for you, your spouse and dependents Proof of foreign status, if applying for an ITIN Birth dates for you, your spouse and dependents on the tax return Wage and earning statement(s) Form W-2, W-2G, 1099-R, 1099-Misc from all employers Interest and dividend statements from banks (Forms 1099) A copy of last year s federal and state returns if available Proof of bank account routing numbers and account numbers for Direct Deposit, such as a blank check Total paid for daycare provider and the daycare provider's tax identifying number (the provider's Social Security Number or the provider's business Employer Identification Number) if appropriate To file taxes electronically on a married-filing-joint tax return, both spouses must be present to sign the required forms. It is extremely important that each person use the correct Social Security Number. The most accurate information is usually located on your original Social Security card. If you do not have an SSN for you or a dependent, you should complete Form SS-5, Social Security Number Application. This form should be submitted to the nearest Social Security Administration Office. If you or your dependent is not eligible to get a Social Security Number, you may need an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). JOHN BENSON

4 JOHN BENSON BUSINESS BRIEF Website: December USA FEDERAL TAXES //// How to select a tax preparer and FREE tax help options from the VITA/TCE Program NEWSLETTER BY: John Benson, December Do you o Use the same preparer you always have? o Look in the Yellow Pages for someone close to home or with a large ad? o Ask your friends and neighbors for suggestions? o Use an online tax preparer? All are valid options however, if you pay someone to prepare your income tax return, the IRS urges you to choose wisely. As a taxpayer, you are legally responsible for everything reported on your tax return; whether you prepare it yourself or have someone else prepare it for you. Below are some helpful tips in selecting an individual or company to prepare your taxes. While the majority of tax preparers are knowledgeable, honest and professional, there are always some who, as the saying goes, give everyone else a bad name. o Check the person or company s qualifications o Check the preparer s history o Ask about their service fees o Make sure they are accessible after the April due date in case you have a question about your return The preparer you choose should: o Ask you to provide all receipts and records needed to prepare your return o Never ask you to sign a blank return o Have you review the entire return before you sign it o Sign the return and include their preparer tax identification number Where can I go for FREE tax preparation? Free tax return preparation by IRS certified volunteers. The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program or VITA offers free tax preparation for low- to moderate-income individuals (generally, $50,000 and below). Most locations also offer free electronic filing. To locate the nearest VITA site, check IRS.gov, or call beginning in early January. Tax Counseling for the Elderly. The TCE program provides free tax help for people aged 60 and older. As part of the IRS-sponsored TCE Program, AARP also offers the Tax-Aide counseling program at more than 7,000 sites nationwide during the filing season. For more information on TCE, call To locate the nearest AARP Tax-Aide site, call or visit AARP's website. Cont 2/

5 - 2 - Free tax help for military personnel and their families - The Armed Forces Tax Council consists of the tax program coordinators for the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. Active duty members and their families worldwide receive free tax preparation assistance at offices within their installations. These VITA sites provide free tax advice, tax preparation, and assistance to military members and their families. They are trained and equipped to address military specific tax issues, such as combat zone tax benefits and the effect of the Earned Income Tax Credit guidelines. Free Tax Return Preparation for You by Volunteers The IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) Programs offer free tax help for taxpayers who qualify. VITA The VITA Program generally offers free tax help to people who make $50,000 or less and need assistance in preparing their own tax returns. IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic income tax return preparation to qualified individuals in local communities. They can inform taxpayers about special tax credits for which they may qualify such as Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, and Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled. VITA sites are generally located at community and neighborhood centers, libraries, schools, shopping malls, and other convenient locations. Most locations also offer free electronic filing. Find a VITA site near you or call TCE The TCE Program offers free tax help for all with priority assistance to people who are 60 years of age and older, specializing in questions about pensions and retirement issues unique to seniors. IRS-certified volunteers who provide tax counseling are often retired individuals associated with non-profit organizations that receive grants from the IRS. Find an AARP Tax-Aide, site near you or call for more information on TCE Facilitated Self-Assistance In addition to traditional face-to-face tax preparation, the IRS is launching a self-assistance service at select locations. If individuals have a simple tax return and need a little help or do not have access to a computer, they can visit one of the participating tax preparation sites and an IRS-certified volunteer will guide them through the process. Cont 3/

6 - 3 - Find a Facilitated Self-Assistance site near you Items you need to bring to the VITA/TCE sites to have your tax returns prepared: Proof of identification Picture ID Social Security Cards for you, your spouse and dependents or a Social Security Number verification letter issued by the Social Security Administration or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) assignment letter for you, your spouse and dependents Proof of foreign status, if applying for an ITIN Birth dates for you, your spouse and dependents on the tax return Wage and earning statement(s) Form W-2, W-2G, 1099-R, 1099-Misc from all employers Interest and dividend statements from banks (Forms 1099) A copy of last year s federal and state returns if available Proof of bank account routing numbers and account numbers for Direct Deposit, such as a blank check Total paid for daycare provider and the daycare provider's tax identifying number (the provider's Social Security Number or the provider's business Employer Identification Number) if appropriate To file taxes electronically on a married-filing-joint tax return, both spouses must be present to sign the required forms. It is extremely important that each person use the correct Social Security Number. The most accurate information is usually located on your original Social Security card. If you do not have an SSN for you or a dependent, you should complete Form SS-5, Social Security Number Application. This form should be submitted to the nearest Social Security Administration Office. If you or your dependent is not eligible to get a Social Security Number, you may need an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). JOHN BENSON

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