News From Our Blog

Free Tax Return Preparation – See If You Qualify

Do you need help preparing your tax return? Learn about the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs.

VITA Program: If you make $51,000 or less, IRS-certified volunteers can inform you about tax credits for which you may qualify and prepare a basic tax return with electronic filing.

TCE Program: If you are 60 years of age or older, you may qualify for free tax help from IRS-certified volunteers who specialize in issues that pertain to seniors. 

There are thousands of locations across the United States where you can get free tax help through the VITA and TCE programs.

What You Need to Know about the 2013 Tax Season

When it comes to tax season, every year is a little different. Laws change, some benefits kick in while others end, and natural disasters can have an impact on your tax return.

The deadline for filing your taxes is April 15, 2013. While this is the normal deadline, there are some important new things you should know for the 2013 tax season.

Tax Season Started Late This Year

The 2013 tax season started about a week later this year due to tax law changes enacted by Congress at the beginning of January. Most people can file their individual income tax returns starting January 30, but you might have to wait until the end of February or March if you’re filing certain forms, including:

  • Form 5695 (Residential Energy Credits - PDF)
  • Form 4562 (Depreciation and Amortization - PDF)
  • Form 3800 (General Business Credit - PDF)

The IRS has a complete list of forms it will begin accepting in late February or March.

Tax Relief for Disaster Survivors

The IRS offers tax relief programs to individuals and businesses affected by disasters such as flooding, earthquakes, wildfires, and hurricanes, including last year’s Hurricane Sandy. Tax relief can include some of the following help:

  • Additional time to file your taxes
  • Additional time to pay your taxes
  • Quick tax returns for losses related to disasters

New Process to Apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)

Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers are issued to people who want to file their taxes but do not have a Social Security Number.

Starting January 1, 2013, important changes were made to the application process, including the following:

  • The IRS will only accept original identification documents such as passports and birth certificates or certified copies from the agency that issued them
  • Notarized copies of documents will not be accepted
  • New Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs) will be valid for a period of five years

The IRS offers more information about Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs) on its website, including how to apply for one and where to get help.

Scams and Fraud

While tax seasons can vary slightly each year, there’s one thing that rarely changes: scammers are always trying to steal your personal information.

Identity theft is one of the most common types of fraud. It often starts when a scammer sends out an e-mail pretending to be the IRS and asks for your personal information. It’s called phishing and may also occur through other types of electronic communication such as text messages, so be careful.

The IRS does not initiate communications via e-mails and provides these tips to help you protect your personal information. The IRS also explains what you should do if you receive a message supposedly from the IRS on its website.

Use IRS Free File to Do Your Federal Taxes for Free

Looking for a simple way to do your taxes? Trying to save time and money? The answer is Free File, and it’s available only at

There is a Free File option for everyone. Free File offers brand-name tax software to people who earned $57,000 or less last year, which is 70 percent of us. For people who earned more, there are free online fillable forms.

This program is a part of a public-private partnership between the Internal Revenue Service and 15 leading tax software companies that have agreed to make their products available to the public for free.

Here’s how to get started:

Step 1: Gather your tax materials

Here’s some of what you will need:

  • A copy of last year’s tax return
  • Valid social security numbers for yourself, your spouse and children
  • All income statements such as your Form W-2
  • Interest/dividend statements, such as the 1099 forms
  • Documents for any tax deductions or credits

Step 2: Choose a Free File option

Do your taxes with either Free File software or online fillable forms. Because there are 15 participating companies, each offering slightly different rules for qualifying, it’s easiest to select “Help Me Choose A Company.” This tool will help you select a software option right for you.

Step 3: Prepare and e-file your return

You can prepare, print and e-file your federal return all for free. Some companies also offer state tax returns for free or for a fee. Using electronic filing and direct deposit remain the fastest way to get your federal refund. The IRS also has upgraded “Where’s My Refund?” so you can start tracking your refund after 24 hours.

Free File is available at around the clock, giving you the freedom to choose when and how you do your taxes.

Earned Income Tax Credit – Find Out If You Qualify

If you earned less than $45,060 (or $50,270 if you’re married and filing jointly) last year, you may qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The maximum credit for tax year 2012 is $5,891.

Even if you don’t owe any tax or are not required to file, you must file a tax return in order to claim the credit.

Find out if you qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit

If you plan to have someone else do your taxes this year, the IRS encourages you to be careful who you select.