Many people experience ups and downs with their personal income. One year may find them with an income at or above the median income of $50,022 (as calculated by the Census Bureau for 2009-2010), and other years may find their income below that level.
If your 2011 income was lower than usual perhaps due to the economy or job loss, or if you are living on a fixed income due to retirement or some other event, you may be able to get free help filing your taxes.
In most cases, to receive free help filing your taxes, your income must be below a certain level depending on which free filing program you utilize.
Free File Program from the IRS
If you have a 2010 adjusted gross income (AGI) of $57,000 or less, you are eligible to utilize the IRS’s free file program. Tax filers can choose from 15 popular free tax filing programs including Tax Slayer, Turbo Tax Freedom Edition and H & R Block’s Free File, just to name a few. Please note that each program has its own requirements as to who is eligible to use their free program.
IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA)
If you made $50,000 or less, you can receive free tax help from IRS certified volunteers. VITA sites can usually be found at local community locations such as libraries and schools. Most VITA sites also offer free electronic filing. To find a VITA site near you, call 1-800-906-9887.
Tax Counseling for the Elderly Program (TCE)
This program specializes in assisting those over age 60. The volunteers who assist with the tax returns specialize in topics important to seniors such as pension and retirement issues. For more information or to find a site near you, call 1-888-227-7669.
Wal-Mart’s Free Tax Filing Program
Outside of the IRS sponsored free tax preparation programs, Walmart offers a free tax filing program in conjunction with the United Way. To utilize this program, your income must be below $57,000. You can either use their free online filing program to do your taxes yourself or take advantage of their van tour where tax professionals visit select sites during tax season and assist with filing.
What to Bring
To take advantage of one of the above programs, make sure to bring the following with you:
- Picture ID
- Social security cards for you, your spouse and dependents
- Birth dates for you, your spouse and your dependents,
- Wage and earning statements including Form W-2, W-2G, 1099-R, 1099-Misc from all employers
- A list of any small businesses or hobbies where you make money on the side
- Form 1099 documenting interest and dividend statements from banks
- A copy of last year’s Federal and State tax returns
- A blank check to serve as proof of bank routing and account numbers (for direct deposit of your income tax return, if applicable)
- Total paid for daycare, and the daycare provider’s tax identification number or social security number
- both spouses must be present to file jointly
*Photo by 401K on Flickr*