TIPS: Free Income Tax Preparation for Qualified Taxpayers
By Barbara Perone
If you meet certain criteria, a local, volunteer tax preparer will electronically file your state and federal income taxes for free. No, this is not an early April Fool’s joke.
To take advantage of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program individuals are required to:
- Have a low-to-moderate annual income, or
- Have a disability, or
- Be a non-English speaking taxpayer, or
- Be eligible for an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), available to those who worked and earned income under certain limits, based upon their filing status, or
- Be part of the United States (U.S.) military.
You may also participate in the program if you earn less than $55,000 a-year, according to the organization’s website at www.vitasa.org.
The VITA program started in 1971 when a California college professor wanted to help some of his accounting students get hands-on experience preparing income taxes. He asked local tax payers to let his pupils prepare their returns; in exchange, he agreed not to charge them for the service. The students’ efforts snowballed and transformed into this nationwide program.
To find out whether you qualify for VITA and locate a volunteer tax preparer in your area, visit the organization’s website or call 1.800.906.9887.
If you are in-between jobs—in transition—and have a background in accounting, mathematics, or a general interest in learning about income tax preparation, volunteering for the VITA program might be a good skill to add to your resume.
You’ll have to attend training sessions, sponsored by the IRS, and take an online test, but, once you pass you’ll receive a Certificate of Recognition and Letter of Appreciation from the IRS, which you can add to your LinkedIn profile.
Once certified, you will be required to work a minimum of 40 hours, from late-January to mid-April, at a VITA site near you. To find out more about volunteering for VITA visit their website at www.vitasa.org.
To volunteer for VITA, in Somerset County, visit the county’s Office of Volunteer Services & Volunteer Opportunities at www.co.somerset.nj.us/somerset_county_office_of_volun.html or call the Volunteer Services Coordinator, Bill Crosby, at 908.704.6358 or send an email to Crosby@somerset.nj.us.