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Time is running out for area taxpayers to receive free tax help

Information on free tax preparation and filing options.

Volunteers certified by the Internal Revenue Service are standing by to provide free help to final-weeks tax return filers in the Greater Cleveland, Akron and Canton region.  With less than two weeks until the filing deadline of April 15, the IRS is encouraging seniors and low- to moderate-level income taxpayers to book their appointments now, or risk missing out on the free help in the last-minute rush.

Several dozen volunteer tax preparation and filing sites are located across northeast Ohio.  Although many are open through April 15, some will be wrapping up their services earlier.  Therefore, it is important that taxpayers who need help with their taxes take action now to ensure they are in line to receive assistance.

The trained and IRS-certified community volunteers can help eligible taxpayers claim valuable credits and deductions, such as the Child Tax Credit or the Credit for the Elderly. Many people may also get assistance in claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a significant financial boost to low- and moderate-income workers. Volunteers can help eligible taxpayers file a tax return, even if they do not have a filing requirement, and specifically claim the credit to get the benefit.

Listings of northeast Ohio volunteer tax sites can be found at http://irs.treasury.gov/freetaxprep/ and http://www.aarp.org/applications/VMISLocator/searchTaxAideLocations.action.  Another option to locate local volunteer tax sites is to call 800-906-9887 or the county information line at 2-1-1.

The IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program offers free tax help generally to people who earn $51,000 and less. The Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) Program offers free tax help to taxpayers with priority assistance to people who are 60 and older. As part of the IRS-sponsored TCE Program, AARP offers the Tax-Aide counseling program during the filing season. Trained and certified AARP Tax-Aide volunteer counselors help people of low-to-middle income with special attention to people age 60 and older.

Taxpayers need to present the following items to have their returns prepared:

  • Photo identification
  • Valid Social Security cards for the taxpayer, spouse and dependents
  • Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) assignment letter for taxpayer, spouse and dependents, if applicable
  • Birth dates for taxpayer, spouse and dependents on the tax return
  • Wage and earning statement(s) Form W-2, W-2G, 1099-R, from all employers
  • Interest and dividend statements from banks (Forms 1099)
  • A copy of last year’s federal and state returns, if available
  • Proof of bank or credit union routing numbers and account numbers for direct deposit
  • Other relevant information about income and expenses
  • Total paid for day care
  • Day care provider's identifying number

To file taxes electronically on a Married Filing Jointly return, both spouses must be present to sign the required forms.

For taxpayers who want to prepare and e-file their own tax returns, there are two options. The IRS now offers a self-assistance service at many VITA and TCE sites. Individuals with a simple return that need help or do not have access to a computer can visit a self-help tax preparation site. An IRS-certified volunteer can guide them through the process. In addition, taxpayers may use IRS Free File. Everyone can use Free File through www.irs.gov/freefile, the free way to prepare and e-file federal taxes either using brand-name software or online fillable forms. Individuals or families with incomes of $57,000 or less can use Free File software. Free File Fillable Forms, the electronic version of IRS paper forms, has no income restrictions.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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