Q: Where can I find free tax preparation this year for seniors?

A:  Free tax preparation services are available for seniors aged 60 or older, and to anyone with income of $60,000 or less, regardless of age.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has operated a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program for over 50 years.  This program is for anyone with income generally $60,000 or less, or people with disabilities, older adults, or people with limited English proficiency.

A second tax program is offered through the IRS called the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program. This program offers free tax assistance specific to people who are age 60 and older. In addition, they specialize in tax questions related to pensions and other retirement-related tax issues.

In both of these programs, the IRS certifies volunteers to provide tax preparation with electronic filing at community locations across the country.

To find a site near you for both the VITA and the TCE programs, go to https://irs.treasury.gov/freetaxprep/ and enter in your zip code. You can also call 211 to find locations near you.

The IRS manages both the VITA and TCE programs by utilizing local IRS-certified volunteers to provide the tax assistance. If you have done your taxes through one of these programs before you may even recognize some of the same volunteers year after year. They are often retired individuals who volunteer to help in these much needed programs.

Some of the locations take appointments and others offer walk in services, so be sure to check before you go. Come prepared with your photo identification, social security cards or taxpayer identification numbers, all needed birthdates, a copy of last year’s tax return, all forms W-2, 1098 and 1099, any interest or dividend statements, form 1095-A, bank account information for direct deposit and any other relevant information on income, expenses, and deductions.

Not all seniors need to file a tax return. If your only source of income is Social Security, then most likely you are not required to file. For the 2022 tax year, if you are married and file a joint return with a spouse who is also 65 or older, you must file a return if your combined gross income is $27,300 or more. If you are single and age 65 or older, you only need to file if your gross income is $14,700 or higher. If you are unsure if you need to file, consult a tax professional.

It is important to note that if you qualify for a refundable credit (such as the earned income credit), you should file a return to get a refund even if you aren’t otherwise required to file a return. While it is always best to consult with a professional, the IRS does offer an Interactive Tax Assistant program online to check if you need to file. https://www.irs.gov/help/ita/do-i-need-to-file-a-tax-return.

Tax season is often stressful and confusing. Spread the word about these free programs and take advantage of what they offer. It is a wonderful service to our community help make sure those that need it can have trusted and reliable tax preparation.

Martha Shapiro can be reached at Senior Concerns at 805-497-0189 or by email at mshapiro@seniorconcerns.org.

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