Income Tax Season: How to Receive A Larger Refund and How to Get Free Tax Preparation Assistance

Tax time is upon us again and tax returns must be filed by April 17, 2018.  There is still time to prepare and file your return and there are excellent resources that exist to assist qualified individuals with preparation of tax returns.  The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offers free tax help to people who generally make $54,000 or less, persons with disabilities and limited English speaking taxpayers who need assistance in preparing their own tax returns. IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals. Volunteer Income Tax Assistance sites are available in your community.  Please use the following link (https://irs.treasury.gov/freetaxprep/) or call 800-906-9887 to locate a VITA site near you.

When you visit the VITA site be sure to bring the following:

Valid photo identification.

Income documents including W-2s and 1099s.

Original Social Security card for everyone claimed on your return.

Previous years’ tax returns (if applicable).

For direct deposit refund: a cancelled or voided check or bank account routing number and account number.

Health Insurance Marketplace Statement, Form 1095-A.

Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)

If your family earns less than $54,000 per year, you may qualify for an extra tax refund worth thousands. It’s called the Earned Income Tax Credit, and billions in EITC refunds go unclaimed in our area.

You qualify for EITC if:

you have earned income and adjusted gross income within certain limits; AND

you meet certain basic rules; AND you either:

meet the rules for those without a qualifying child; OR

have a child that meets all the qualifying child rules for you, or your spouse if you file a joint return.

Use the EITC Assistant to find out your filing status, if your child is a qualifying child, if you are eligible, and estimate the amount of the credit you may get.

Take advantage of the professional preparation offered by the VITA sites and maximize your refund by claiming the EITC.

Charles O. Lee is the Consumer Protection Director for the Mississippi Center for Justice.