Tax Self Help
As advocates for Americans nationwide, we want to help as many taxpayers as possible. However, in certain situations, our services might not be a fit. There are free programs available to help specific taxpayers resolve their tax issues. Even if you are not eligible for these free programs, The W Tax Group provides answers to some frequently encountered tax questions below.
The Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program offers free tax help to individuals who are age 60 or older. Cooperative grant agreements are entered into between IRS and eligible organizations to provide tax assistance to elderly taxpayers.
Tax return preparation assistance is provided to elderly taxpayers during the normal period for filing Federal income tax returns, which is from January 1 to April 15 each year. However, the program activities required to make sure elderly taxpayers receive efficient and quality tax assistance can be conducted year-round.
Through the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program, eligible taxpayers can get free, local, one-on-one help to prepare and file their taxes. The several thousand community-based sites are staffed by IRS trained and certified volunteers. Low- and moderate-income taxpayers and those age 60 and above can find the nearest site on IRS.gov’s VITA/TCE Site Locator.
The IRS provides free tax help to military members and their families through its Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA). VITA offers free tax preparation and e-filing at sites both on and off base. It also has sites to help our military overseas. Here are five things to know about free tax help for the military:
Armed Forces Tax Council. The Armed Forces Tax Council oversees the military tax programs offered worldwide. AFTC partners with the IRS to conduct outreach to military personnel and their families. This includes the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.
Volunteer tax sites. IRS-trained volunteers staff the military VITA sites. They receive training on military tax issues, such as combat zone tax benefits, extensions of time to file and pay and special rules for the Earned Income Tax Credit
What to bring. To get free tax help, bring the following records to your military VITA site:
- Valid photo identification.
- Social Security cards for you, your spouse and dependents. If you don’t have a card you should get a letter from the Social Security Administration to verify your information.
- Birth dates for you, your spouse and dependents.
- Your wage and earning forms, such as Forms W-2, W-2G, and 1099-R.
- Interest and dividend statements (Forms 1099).
- A copy of your last year’s federal and state tax returns, if available.
- Routing and account numbers for direct deposit of your tax refund.
- Total amount you paid for day care and the day care provider’s identifying number. This is usually an Employer Identification Number or Social Security number.
- Other relevant information about your income and expenses.
If you are married and file a joint return, generally both you and your spouse need to sign the return. If you both can’t be present to sign, you should bring a valid power of attorney form. Use Form 2848, Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative.
There is a special exception to this rule if your spouse is in a combat zone. The exception allows a spouse to file a joint return with a signed statement explaining that the other spouse is in a combat zone and unable to sign.
No matter your income level, you can use Free File Fillable Forms. These are identical to IRS paper forms, so this option is like the old “pencil and calculator” method of filing. However, the fillable forms don’t come with any additional guidance. If you plan to use this option, you should be comfortable with the process of completing a tax return.
You may find more information on Free File Software and Free File Fillable Forms at IRS.gov Free File.
You must pay taxes as you earn or receive income during the year, either through proper paycheck withholdings or estimated tax payments.
Taxes taken from your payroll check (withholdings)
You can make changes to the amount your employer withholds from each of your paychecks by filling out an IRS Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate, and giving it to the person who takes care of your payroll. The reason you complete an IRS Form W-4 is so your employer can withhold the correct federal income tax from your pay. You should consider completing a new IRS Form W-4 when your personal or financial situation changes.
You may use the IRS withholding calculator to figure your federal income tax and withholding. The withholding calculator is a tool on IRS.gov designed to help you determine how to have the right amount of tax withheld from your paychecks.
When you use the withholding calculator, it will help you determine if you need to adjust your withholding and submit a new Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate, to your employer.
Estimated tax payments for self-employed taxpayers (usually business owners)
If you’re subject to self-employment (SE) tax and income tax, you’re generally required to make estimated tax payments quarterly to the IRS. It’s important to look at your business profit and loss during the year to find out if you need to make estimated payments. If it looks like you’ll owe SE tax at the end of the year, you’ll likely need to make quarterly estimated tax payments.
You can use IRS Form 1040-ES, Estimated Tax for Individuals, to figure your estimated tax. You could be subject to a penalty if you don’t have enough withholding or estimated payments on your account.
By using the “Where’s My Refund?” tool available on IRS.gov and on the official IRS mobile app, IRS2Go, taxpayers can easily find the most up-to-date information about their tax refund.
Taxpayers can start checking on the status of their return within 24 hours after the IRS acknowledges receipt of a taxpayer’s e-filed return or four weeks after the taxpayer mailed in a paper return.
The system is updated daily, so there’s no need to check more often.
IRS Direct Pay offers taxpayers the fastest and easiest way to pay what they owe. This free online system allows individuals to securely pay their tax bills or make quarterly estimated tax payments directly from checking or savings accounts without fees or pre-registration.
See IRS.gov/Payments for information on this and other payment options.
The “Where’s My Amended Return?” tool provides the status of an amended tax return, Form 1040X.
Taxpayers can check on the current year 1040X and up to three prior years. Allow up to three weeks after filing to check on the initial status, and up to 16 weeks for processing.