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IRS awards $51 million to VITA & TCE program sponsors

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Super helpful is how millions of taxpayers describe VITA and TCE volunteers each tax-filing season. The IRS has awarded new grants to keep the nationwide free tax preparation and filing programs going. (Photo by Jonas Jacobsson on Unsplash)

More than 62 million of us did our own taxes and e-filed them this tax season, at least through May 12, the date of the Internal Revenue Service's latest count. That represented almost 44 percent of all 2022 tax year filings so far.

Some of those taxpayers, however, got some no-cost help from IRS-trained volunteers in filling out and electronically filing their 1040s. They used tax services provided by volunteers at Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs.

This week, the IRS announced grants totaling $51 million to organizations that sponsor the annual VITA and TCE free federal tax return preparation sites. The federal fiscal year 2024 funds went to 45 TCE and 300 VITA applicants.

Two programs for a variety of taxpayer needs: The VITA program, created in 1969, provides free federal tax return preparation and electronic filing. VITA volunteers focus on underserved communities, such as low- and moderate-income individuals (generally, those who make $60,000 or less) and taxpayers whose native language is not English.

Nine years later, the TCE program was established. TCE volunteers, provides free tax counseling and federal return preparation to individuals who are age 60 or older. The focus, as expected, is on tax questions about pensions and retirement-related issues unique to seniors.

Certified VITA and TCE volunteers receive IRS tax-law training and technical assistance and oversight. The programs are available during tax filing season at community locations across the United States. Community partners include non-profit agencies, faith-based organizations, community centers, and large employers.

Community assistance focus: "As a part of the transformation of IRS, connecting with communities and providing resources through partnerships is part of our effort to ensure fair and equitable administration of taxes and provide valuable credits to those in need. Grants ensure that these partners have access and are available," said Ken Corbin, the IRS Wage and Investment commissioner, in announcing the latest VITA and TCE awards.

Maryann Enciso, acting national director for IRS Stakeholder Partnerships, Education and Communication noted that VITA and TCE volunteers exemplify the approach that their tax help is a cause, not a program.

"VITA and TCE grant recipients work hard to improve the taxpayer experience in their own backyards," said Enciso. "

Finding help in filing season: VITA and TCE sites generally are open during the tax filing season, which is Jan. 1 through April 15, or later depending on whether that date falls on a weekend or holiday. During those months, you can find a site near you by using the IRS' free tax prep help online locator tool.

Many of the TCE sites are operated by the AARP Foundation's Tax Aide program. You can use the AARP Site Locator Tool to find those sites.

And if you're interested in helping your less tax-savvy neighbors prepare and file their returns, check into becoming a VITA or TCE volunteer.

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