VIDEO: Free Professional Tax Help for 75 Percent of Americans

April 5, 2011 by · Comments Off 

By Bridget Bennett
brekow@smu.edu

Untitled from SMUDailyMustang.com on Vimeo.

With less than two weeks until tax day, many Americans may be scrambling to make the deadline.

Options for tax help include tax preparation services like H&R Block or Hewitt Jackson can cost around $150 for a non-complicated tax return. Do-It-Yourself programs like Turbo Tax are another option, but can cost around fifty dollars.

But free help is available for senior citizens, military personnel and anyone who makes less than $49,000 a year—that’s roughly 75 percent of Americans.

College students and other first-time filers often qualify for this free assistance.

University of North Texas student Brigitte Kong says she pays enough for school bills, that she did not want to pay for help on her taxes, but didn’t want to risk doing her taxes on her own.

“I’m not good with numbers, so I prefer it someone does if for me just in case I mess up or loose a few numbers,” she said.

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program, or VITA, is one option for free help. Certified volunteers assists qualified filers in finding tax breaks and filing their tax returns.

Many VITA volunteers have years of experience working in the tax industry. They also pass a VITA certification program before they are able to help with the program.

Diane Blankenship is one such volunteer. She ran her own H&R Block franchise in New Mexico for 35 years. Now that she is retired, she is volunteering at VITA and AARP clinics throughout DFW.

“It gives you a good feeling that you’ve done something for somebody and that they show that they appreciate it,” Blankenship said.

Some of the same volunteers help with the AARP tax assistance program. The AARP primarily assists senior citizens; however, volunteers will help anyone seeking assistance on their taxes.

Assistance from AARP and VITA volunteers can be found at public libraries, senior centers, and other public facilities. Qualified individuals can also get free help filing from an IRS agent. Local IRS offices take appointments and some walk-ins starting in February each year; an IRS agent will go over financial documents, tax forms, and help file a tax return in their office.

Getting your taxes prepared by an IRS agent or volunteer does not avoid a possible tax audit. VITA volunteers say they are available to help make corrections if necessary.

Officials at these free help facilities suggest seeking help early to avoid long lines as tax day approaches.