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IRS awards grants to 307 free tax help sites for seniors and low-income filers

VITA free tax prep and filing in Rutherford County Tennessee
Free tax-preparation and filing help is offered through groups like United Way, which partnered with volunteers at this Rutherford County, Tennessee, VITA office. Not only does the IRS train the tax assistors, each year it awards grants to keep the sites running across the country.

Meeting your tax responsibilities can be a challenge for many — OK, most — of us. But things can be even more difficult when you can't afford to hire help to finish your returns or your advancing age makes doing your taxes tougher.

There are some dedicated volunteers who work every year to meet the needs of elderly and lower-income taxpayers. They are part of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCA) programs.

VITA has been around since 1969, helping low- and moderate-income taxpayers, as well as those whose first language isn't English, get their taxes completed and e-filed for free. The most recent income threshold to qualify for VITA help was $56,000.

TCE has been offering the same nationwide, free tax prep and electronic filing since 1978 for people age 60 or older.

COVID complications, but preparing for 2021: This tax season, the COVID-19 pandemic obviously hampered VITA and TCE programs, but they adjusted.

After initially closing all operations as part of coronavirus precautions, some of the free tax help sites offered virtual appointments or limited personal consultations that followed strict health safety protocols.

And tax volunteers are planning to continue their work next filing season, thanks to more than $36 million in grants the Internal Revenue Service recently awarded. The money, which covers the new federal fiscal year running from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30, 2021, will support 273 VITA programs and 34 TCE operations.

"These two programs make a huge difference for people in need of tax assistance, and the IRS is proud to award these grants to help these groups perform their important service," said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig in announcing the latest grants.

Trained and partnered: The IRS works with volunteers to facilitate the no-cost tax services. VITA and TCE personnel get IRS-backed tax law training, certification and oversight so that they can prepare accurate returns for those who need and qualify for their services.

And to make sure the tax help gets to as many eligible taxpayers as possible, the groups work with a wide variety of partners. They include non-profit agencies, faith-based organizations, community centers and large employers. Many military bases also have VITA sites.

"We appreciate the continuing interest in these programs from our partners, and we greatly appreciate the TCE and VITA volunteers across the country who make a difference for so many taxpayers," added Rettig.

Added assistance information: The IRS has more information on VITA and TCE at its special web page Free Tax Return Preparation for Qualifying Taxpayers. You also can find a VITA or TCE location near you by using the IRS' Free Tax Prep online search tool or by calling toll-free 1 (800) 906-9887.

Most TCE sites are operated by the AARP Foundation's Tax Aide program. You can find the TCE Tax-Aide site nearest you between January and April by using the AARP Site Locator Tool or calling toll-free 1 (888) 227-7669.

And if you've downloaded the IRS mobile app IRS2Go, you can use it to find a VITA or TCE site.

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