By Roy Ice
It might seem like taxes were created to be inherently stressful.
The rules can be difficult to navigate without a guide but, luckily, there is an army of volunteers and professionals that can help lead you through the forms and line items and make tax season just a little bit more bearable.
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance
One great program, speaking as a former volunteer myself, is the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offered by the United Way of Knox County.
“VITA offers free tax help to qualified individuals, who generally make $56,000 or less. This is a great program with expanded eligibility for those with disabilities or limited English speaking ability. To take advantage of the service individuals in Knox County and the surrounding area can make drop off their tax information at either the Vincennes or Bicknell libraries during the month of February,” said Joyce Conrad with United Way.
Tax Counseling for the Elderly
In addition to VITA, the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program offered by Generations provides free tax help for all taxpayers, particularly those who are 60 years of age and older, specializing in questions about pensions and retirement-related issues unique to seniors.
According to Linda Yochum with Generations, “if you are located in either Daviess, Dubois, Martin, or Knox counties and would like more information about free volunteer tax assistance, you can visit generationsnetwork.org after Jan. 31 for TCE site locations and hours of operation.”
If you are outside the area, you can still visit Generations or try the VITA Locator Tool at IRS.gov or call 800-906-9887. Both VITA and TCE site volunteers are IRS certified tax preparers.
IRS Free File
IRS.gov also offers “Free File” if your income is $69,000 or less. IRS Free File provides free federal tax prep and e-file for taxpayers using brand-name software programs. To take advantage of the free software, you can simply visit the IRS website, search for Free File, create an account and then the software will guide you through return preparation. Whether you choose VITA, TCE, or Free File, you will need to gather some information, including your identification and Social Security cards, direct deposit information, a copy of your prior year tax return, and documents for your current year income and deductions.
These are just a few options for tax preparation, but when is it time to consult a CPA? The answer really depends on your situation, but consider contacting a licensed professional if you are a business owner or when your tax information can’t be neatly wrapped up in one single tax year. Some tax items may be reportable and deductible over multiple years and, if you have experienced significant changes in your income or income type, it might be a good idea to consult with a paid professional.
A CPA is a consultant who will help you plan beyond the actual preparation of tax forms. They will advise you on complex situations and help you maintain records when the tax treatment of certain items is not as straightforward.
The benefit of tax savings and avoidance of penalties should far outweigh the fees for professional help. Reach out to a tax pro or one of the great volunteer programs early and they can help you make sure that you are looking at the New Year with “2020 vision.”