As the COVID-compromised 2020 and 2021 tax filing seasons demonstrated, most taxpayers needed some help to make sure they got all the tax breaks they were entitled to, as well as just file their annual returns.
That need for tax assistance isn't going away, even if we do (fingers and toes tightly crossed) get to a more normal tax season next year.
And volunteers who've received the Internal Revenue Service imprimatur are getting ready now to help older taxpayers and those who don't make much money meet their annual filing responsibilities.
These dedicated individuals share their time and tax talents as members of Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs. Thanks to more than $41 million in just-awarded IRS grants, 34 TCE and 300 VITA programs will open their tax-help doors to eligible filers during the upcoming 2022 tax season.
While $41 million is a nice chunk of change from Uncle Sam, I'm really impressed by the number of programs that offer no-cost help to those who otherwise would struggle to file their federal tax returns. So the total of 334 volunteer tax filing locations next year earns this weekend's By the Numbers honor.
Volunteer tax help history and administration: The TCE program, established in 1978, provides free tax counseling and federal return preparation to individuals who are age 60 or older. The TCE sites are found at community locations across the nation.
Tax return preparation help is provided to elderly taxpayers during the normal period for filing Federal income tax returns, which is from January 1 to April 15 (we hope in 2022!) each year. However, the program activities required to make sure elderly taxpayers receive efficient and quality tax assistance can be conducted year-round.
The VITA program, created in 1969, assists underserved communities, such as low- and moderate-income individuals (generally earn $58,000 or less) and those taxpayers who have limited English speaking skills. VITA grant recipients provide free federal tax return preparation and electronic filing during the annual filing season.
Both TCE and VITA services are found in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The IRS provides tax law training, certification and oversight to these organizations assisting their efforts to prepare accurate returns.
National support, local implementation: Although the IRS is involved, the actual administration of VITA and TCE programs is handled by an expansive array of community group/IRS partnerships across the United States. The partners include non-profit agencies, faith-based organizations, community centers, and large employers.
Both listings show the sponsoring community groups and their locations, alphabetically by state. When the programs open their doors next year at the beginning of the tax season (usually mid-to-late January), you'll be able to get location specifics.
That's usually at community and neighborhood centers, libraries, schools, shopping malls, or other locally convenient spot. You can find that, as well as hours, eligibility requirements, and more at the VITA and TCE online search tools:
Finding a nearby VITA or TCE site: To locate the nearest VITA or TCE site, use the IRS' VITA online locator tool. Just enter your Zip Code and how far you're willing to or can travel.
You also can call toll-free (800) 906-9887 to find a VITA site or, again toll-free, (888) 227-7669 for a TCE location. And since most TCE sites are operated by the AARP Foundation's Tax Aide program, you can use the AARP Site Locator Tool for those locations.
Don't try any of the location tools now, though. The options are operational with updated site information between January and April.
Volunteers wanted and welcomed: And if you'd like to volunteer to help your neighbors file their taxes at a VITA or TCE site, good for you and thanks!
Some of the tens of thousands of VITA and TCE volunteers are retired individuals associated with the non-profit organizations that receive grants from the IRS. Some are retired tax and accounting professionals or even former IRS agents.
But a tax community and/or IRS affiliation is not a requirement. If you volunteer, you'll get tax-law training and must pass the programs' courses, which meet or exceed IRS standards.
You also might find these items of interest:
- Special clinics help low-income taxpayers resolve other IRS issues
- High school senior's volunteerism essay offers a valuable tax lesson
- VITA and TCE volunteers in 2020-21 work around COVID-19 to help taxpayers file returns