Roman J. Salamon

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Taking Advantage of the IRS' VITA Program

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The arrival of tax season represents a major challenge for many people without the funds to file their income tax returns. Meanwhile, messages of financial hope get lost amid advertisements and promotions offered by retailers. The IRS' Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program gives those who cannot afford to file opportunity, but many do not understand what the program is and how it works. So, you can help those in your community by knowing a few things about it.

What Is the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program?

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program and its partner program, Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE), help low-to-moderate income families prepare their tax returns at no charge. The TCE is also available to people 60 years of age and older with unique pension and retirement-related issues.

Under the VITA, tax preparation is available through volunteer tax preparers who sign up via this IRS' website to perform tax services at local organizations and sites. Additionally, volunteers in the program receive training to become certified as well. United Way of Rock River Valley invests in the local GoodTAXES program offered through Goodwill of Northern Illinois.

Who Is Eligible For the VITA?

Several factors determine eligibility for the VITA. Individuals making less than $54,000, people with disabilities or limited in English speaking ability may qualify for the program. Most VITA-affiliated locations can review your income levels to see if you qualify. However, some organizations may offer free tax preparation through partnering agencies for more than the VITA standard. For example, United Way of Rock River Valley partners with MyFreeTaxes.com to offer free filing for anyone earning less than $64,000 annually.

How Does Someone Take Advantage of the VITA?

Goodwill of Northern Illinois offers free tax assistance under their VITA program called GoodTAXES. You may search for local tax preparation sites at MyFreeTaxes.com.

What Does a Person Need to Bring to the Local VITA Site?

Documents needed to complete tax preparation under the VITA program are the traditional documents used to file a return, which include the following:

  • Photo ID.
  • Social security cards for anyone in your household.
  • An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) for people without a Social Security number.
  • Individuals applying for an ITIN will need proof of foreign status.
  • Birth dates for household members.
  • Applicable wage and earning statements from all employers.
  • Interest and dividend statements from banks.
  • Health insurance documentation, including Form 1095.
  • Copies of the most recent return filed.
  • Proof of bank routing and account numbers for direct deposit.
  • Both you and your spouse will need to be present if filing jointly.
  • Total paid for daycare services and identifying information, such as a taxpayer ID number, for such providers.

Is the VITA Available Online?

Not usually, but United Way of Rock River Valley has partnered with MyFreeTaxes.com to give people with transportation problems access to free tax preparation services. Of course, people can still file their taxes in person through Goodwill of Northern Illinois' GoodTAXES VITA program. People will also need to have all the information and documentation previously listed to complete tax prep through MyFreeTaxes.com. To speak with a tax expert within this partnership, call 1 (855) 698-9435, or to find out more about how United Way of Rock River Valley may be able to help you, contact the main office at 1 (815) 968-5400.

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