Deal Finder: Get Free Tax Preparation Assistance in Coweta County
By LaTina Emerson, The Shopper Deal Finder
Tax season is here again, and with the recent changes in the nation’s tax laws, it’s more important than ever to seek professional help with filing your federal and state income taxes.
To help local residents make sure they’re on the right track, free tax preparation assistance is being offered in Coweta County by AARP Foundation and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Volunteers are available to prepare 2018 tax returns by the filing deadline, which is Monday, April 15.
AARP Foundation Tax-Aide Program
The AARP Foundation Tax-Aide Program offers free tax preparation services to low to moderate income taxpayers, particularly those 50 and older, at more than 5,000 locations nationwide. In Coweta County, taxpayers of all ages can get free tax assistance at selected Coweta County Public Library System locations. Taxes are prepared on a first-come, first-served basis.
On Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., visit the A. Mitchell Powell Jr. Public Library at 25 Hospital Road in Newnan through April 10. For more information, call 770-253-3625.
On Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., visit the Central Library at 85 Literary Lane in Newnan through April 11. For more information, call 770-683-2052.
Taxpayers should bring the following documents:
• Previous year’s tax return(s)
• Social Security cards or other official documentation that shows taxpayer identification numbers for every individual on your return
• Government-issued photo ID for all taxpayers
• Checking or savings account information for direct deposit of refund or direct debit of any amount due
• Identity Protection PIN for each individual, if applicable
• W-2 form for each employer
• 1099-G form for unemployment compensation or state/local income tax refunds
• SSA-1099 form showing total Social Security benefits paid to you for the year
• All 1099 forms reporting interest, dividends or proceeds from sales, plus documents showing the original purchase prices of any sold stocks and assets
• 1099-R form if you received a pension, annuity or IRA distribution
• 1099-MISC, 1099-K or other 1099 forms. If you have a business, bring a list of all your income and business-related expenses.
• Information about any other income
For Health Insurance:
• 1095-A forms if you purchased insurance through the Marketplace or 1095-B/1095-C forms
• Dependent care provider information (name, address, telephone number and employer ID or Social Security number and amount paid to provider)
• 1098-T form for education expenses, plus statement of account from the educational institution showing tuition and fees paid and scholarships/grants received. Summary of other education expenses.
• 1098-E form for student loan interest
For Deductions: If you have a substantial amount of deductions, you may want to itemize.
• 1098 form showing home mortgage interest
• List of medical/dental/vision expenses, including doctor and hospital bills, medical insurance premiums, prescriptions, assisted living services, long-term insurance and bills for medical-related home improvements, such as ramps and railings for people with disabilities.
• Summary of cash and noncash contributions to charity
• Property tax bills paid during the year (frequently shown on mortgage statement)
IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) Programs
The IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program provides free tax assistance to people who make $55,000 or less, individuals with disabilities and limited English-speaking taxpayers. The IRS Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) Program offers free tax help to all taxpayers, especially those who are 60 and older, and can assist seniors with questions about pensions and retirement-related issues.
Volunteers for both programs are certified by the IRS and will provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to those who qualify.
The VITA/TCE site in Coweta County is Goodwill Southern Rivers Newnan at 3121 Highway 34 East in Newnan. This location will offer free tax preparation services through mid-April. Taxpayers are required to have an appointment. For more information, call 678-854-6839.
To find additional VITA/TCE sites, visit https://irs.treasury.gov/freetaxprep/ or call 800-906-9887.
Here are some additional tax tips:
Avoid unethical tax return preparers: The IRS warns taxpayers to avoid unethical tax return preparers, also known as ghost preparers. Anyone who is paid to prepare or assist in preparing federal tax returns must have a valid 2019 Preparer Tax Identification Number. They must sign the return and include this number.
Ghost preparers won’t sign the tax return. Instead, they print the document and tell the taxpayer to sign and mail it to the IRS. Or, they refuse to digitally sign the e-filed return as the paid preparer.
These dishonest tax return preparers are trying to make some fast money by promising a big refund or charging fees based on a percentage of the refund. They may also require payment in cash and not provide a receipt, invent income to help clients qualify for tax credits or claim fake deductions to boost their refunds, or direct refunds into their own bank account.
Taxpayers should review their tax return carefully before signing and ask questions if something isn’t clear. They also need to make sure the routing and bank account numbers on the completed tax return are correct for direct deposit refunds.
Claim important tax credits: The IRS reminds taxpayers to review the instructions for the Earned Income Tax Credit to determine if they qualify. Eligible families with three or more qualifying children could get a maximum credit of up to $6,431. People with no children could get up to $519 added to their tax refund. All workers who earned around $54,000 or less should find out if they qualify.
In addition, taxpayers who have children or other dependents may be eligible to claim the Child Tax Credit, the Additional Child Tax Credit or the Credit for Other Dependents.
Determine eligibility for waived penalties and check tax withholding: The IRS is waiving the estimated tax penalty for taxpayers whose 2018 federal income tax withholding and estimated tax payments fell short of their total tax liability for the year.
The waived penalty is for any taxpayer who paid at least 85 percent of their total tax liability during the year through federal income tax withholding, quarterly estimated tax payments or a combination of the two. To avoid a penalty, the usual percentage threshold is 90 percent.
The waiver helps taxpayers who didn’t have enough tax withheld to reflect changes under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act enacted in 2017. Our tax system requires taxpayers to pay most of their tax obligation during the year by having tax withheld from paychecks or pension payments or by making estimated tax payments. A penalty applies at tax filing if too little is paid during the year.
Updated federal tax withholding tables reflected lower tax rates and the increased standard deduction from the new law. Taxpayers had less tax withheld in 2018 and saw more in their paychecks, but the withholding tables didn’t factor in other changes and some taxpayers paid too little tax during the year if they didn’t make adjustments.
The IRS recommends for taxpayers to check their withholding again this year to make sure they have the correct amount of tax withheld for 2019. They can review an updated version of the agency’s withholding calculator on IRS.gov.
Set up a payment plan: If taxpayers owe taxes and can’t pay in full, the IRS offers payment plans to assist with the remaining balance. Payment options include an online payment agreement for individuals who owe $50,000 or less, an installment agreement paid by direct deposit from a bank account or payroll deduction, delaying collection until the taxpayer’s financial condition improves and settling the tax bill for less than the amount owed by submitting an offer in compromise.
Choose direct deposit: Taxpayers with a savings, checking or brokerage account can choose to have their refund electronically deposited. Direct deposit helps taxpayers get their refunds sooner and eliminates
the worry about lost, stolen or undelivered refund checks.