Tax Time Guide: Free tax return help available in-person and online

IR-2019-53, March 21, 2019

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WASHINGTON –– The Internal Revenue Service reminds taxpayers that free tax help is available at over 11,000 volunteer sites nationwide and online through IRS Free File.

This news release is part of a series called the Tax Time Guide, a resource to help taxpayers file an accurate tax return. Additional help is available in Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax, and the tax reform information page.

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offers free tax help to individuals who generally make $55,000 or less, persons with disabilities, the elderly and individuals with limited English proficiency who need assistance in preparing their taxes. The Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program offers free tax help for all taxpayers, particularly those age 60 and older.

The IRS certified VITA and TCE volunteers are trained to help taxpayers claim the credits they are entitled to such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit and Credit for Other Dependents.

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a significant tax credit for workers who earned $54,884 or less in 2018. Last year, more than 25 million eligible workers and families received about $63 billion in EITC, with an average EITC amount of $2,488. The maximum EITC amount for 2018 is $6,431 for qualifying families with three or more children. The VITA and TCE programs can help answer many EITC questions and help taxpayers claim the credit if they qualify. Taxpayers may also use the IRS.gov EITC Assistant to help them determine their eligibility.

To find the nearest VITA or TCE site, taxpayers can use the VITA and TCE locator tool available on IRS.gov, download the IRS mobile app IRS2GO or call 800-906-9887. Help in other languages – Chinese, Cantonese, Hindi, Korean, Mandarin, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese – is also available at select locations across the country. The locator tool indicates where these services are offered.

For assistance preparing a tax return at a VITA or TCE site, taxpayers must bring all required documents and information including:

  • Proof of identification (photo ID) for taxpayer and spouse
  • Social Security cards for the taxpayer, spouse and dependents
  • An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) assignment letter may be substituted for those who do not have a Social Security number (SSN).
  • Proof of foreign status, if applying for an ITIN
  • Birth dates for the taxpayer, spouse and dependents
  • Wage and earning statements (Form W-2, W-2G, 1099-R, 1099-Misc) from all employers and other payers
  • Interest and dividend statements from banks (Forms 1099)
  • Health Insurance Exemption Certificate, if received
  • A copy of last year’s federal and state tax returns, if available
  • Proof of bank account routing and account numbers for direct deposit such as a blank check
  • To file taxes electronically on a married-filing-joint tax return, both spouses must be present to sign the required forms
  • Total amount paid for daycare services and the daycare provider's tax identifying number such as their SSN or business Employer Identification Number
  • Forms 1095-A, B and C, Health Coverage Statements
  • Copies of income transcripts from IRS and state, if applicable

Armed Forces Tax Council

The Armed Forces Tax Council (AFTC) oversees military tax programs worldwide and serves as the main conduit for outreach by the IRS to military personnel and their families. The AFTC consists of tax program coordinators for the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. Volunteers can address military specific tax issues, such as combat zone tax benefits and the impact of the EITC guidelines. In addition to free tax return preparation assistance, each site will e-file returns for free.

Combining e-file with direct deposit is the fastest and most accurate way to file. The IRS issues nine out of 10 refunds in 21 days or less. Paper returns take longer to process.

IRS Free File

Taxpayers that want to prepare and e-file their tax returns can use IRS Free File. IRS Free File offers brand-name tax software for taxpayers who earned $66,000 or less in 2018 so they can prepare and file their tax federal returns free. Taxpayers who earned more can use Free Fillable Forms, the electronic version of IRS paper forms. IRS Free File is only available through the IRS website by visiting IRS.gov/freefile.

IRS Free File also allows the taxpayer to get an automatic extension of time to file.

Taxpayers who owe taxes can make a payment using Direct Pay. This IRS free service allows taxpayers to make secure payments from a checking or savings account by the tax filing deadline.

Taxpayers can find answers to questions, forms and instructions and easy-to-use tools online at IRS.gov. No appointment required and no waiting on hold.