Deal Finder: Get free tax preparation in Coweta County
By LaTINA EMERSON, The Deal Finder
Despite the nation’s ongoing health and economic issues, there’s one thing that we can always depend on: taxes. The deadline to file federal and state income taxes is April 15, so the clock is ticking for everyone to get their taxes prepared.
To save some cash, take advantage of free tax preparation services that are being offered in Coweta County. Volunteers with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) are assisting local residents, but taxpayers must make an appointment. Learn more:
IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA);
Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) Programs
The IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program provides free tax assistance to people who make $57,000 or less, individuals with disabilities and limited English-speaking taxpayers. The IRS Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) Program offers free tax help to taxpayers, especially those who are 60 and older, and specializes in answering questions about pensions and retirement-related issues.
The IRS-certified volunteers are trained to help taxpayers claim tax credits for which they are eligible, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit or Credit for Other Dependents. They will provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to those who qualify.
All VITA/TCE volunteers must take and pass tax law training that meets or exceeds IRS standards. The IRS also requires a quality review check for every return prepared at a VITA/TCE site prior to filing.
The VITA/TCE site in Coweta County is Goodwill (Thomas Crossroads store) at 3121 Highway 34 East in Newnan. This location will offer free tax preparation services on Mondays through Thursdays from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. during tax season, by appointment only. To make an appointment, call 678-854-6839, Ext. 4.
In the surrounding area, taxpayers can also receive free tax preparation assistance at the Catherine Hardy Lavender Center at 425 Willie North St. in Carrollton, Ga. 30117. Taxpayers should come to the center on Saturday mornings between 9 to 10 a.m. to receive an appointment time. If appointments are available, they will receive tax preparation assistance that same day. If the appointments are already filled, they will be given an appointment for the following Saturday. The center will assist taxpayers through April 10. For more information, call 770-834-3428.
To find additional VITA/TCE sites, visit https://irs.treasury.gov/freetaxprep/ or call 800-906-9887.
AARP Foundation Tax-Aide Program
This year, the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide Program scheduled appointments for taxpayers over the phone for one Coweta County Public Library System location, rather than having in-person registration to receive assistance the same day on a first-come, first-served basis. All available appointments for this tax season have been filled, and the program can’t accommodate anyone who doesn’t already have an appointment, according to library officials.
IRS Free File
Taxpayers can prepare and file their tax returns electronically using IRS Free File, which offers brand-name tax software for taxpayers with an income of $72,000 or less in 2020. Taxpayers who earned more can use Free File Fillable Forms, the electronic version of IRS paper forms. To get started, visit https://www.irs.gov/filing/free-file-do-your-federal-taxes-for-free.
IRS Free File allows taxpayers to get an automatic extension, if needed. It’s also a way to get a fast refund. Filing electronically and using direct deposit is the quickest and most accurate way to file and receive a refund.
Choosing a Tax Return Preparer
For taxpayers who are unable to get free tax preparation assistance through the volunteer programs offered by the IRS, it’s important to choose a tax return preparer carefully. While most tax return preparers are honest and provide quality service, others may target taxpayers through fraud, identity theft and other scams.
Anyone who is paid to prepare or assist in preparing federal tax returns must have an IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). Paid preparers must sign the return and include their PTIN. If they don’t sign the return, this is a red flag. Here are some additional tips:
- Look for a preparer who is available year-round
- Ask whether the preparer has a professional credential, belongs to a professional organization or attends continuing education classes to ensure they’re up-to-date on tax topics
- Check the preparer’s history with the Better Business Bureau, State Board of Accountancy or State Bar Association
- Inquire about service fees
- Provide records and receipts
- Never sign a blank or incomplete return
Taxpayers can visit IRS.gov for more tips on how to choose a tax professional:
- Choosing a Tax Professional: https://www.irs.gov/tax-professionals/choosing-a-tax-professional
- Tax Return Preparer Credentials and Qualifications: https://www.irs.gov/tax-professionals/understanding-tax-return-preparer-credentials-and-qualifications
- Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers: https://irs.treasury.gov/rpo/rpo.jsf
What to Bring
Taxpayers should bring the following documents to their appointment:
- Proof of identification (photo ID)
- Social Security cards for the taxpayer, their spouse and dependents
- An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) assignment letter, if the taxpayer, their spouse or dependents don’t have a Social Security number
- Proof of foreign status, if applying for an ITIN
- Birth dates for the taxpayer, their spouse and dependents on the tax return
- Wage and earning statements (Form W-2, W-2G, 1099-R,1099-Misc) from all employers
- Interest and dividend statements from banks (Forms 1099)
- Health Insurance Exemption Certificate, if received
- Copy of last year’s federal and state returns, if available
- Proof of bank account routing and account numbers for direct deposit (such as a blank check)
- Both spouses must be present to sign the required forms in order to file taxes electronically on a married-filing-joint tax return
- Total paid for daycare provider and the daycare provider’s tax identifying number (Social Security number or business Employer Identification Number)
- Forms 1095-A, B and C, Health Coverage Statements
- Copies of income transcripts from IRS and state, if applicable
Some taxpayers might be eligible for tax credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit or Credit for Other Dependents.
The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a significant tax credit for workers who earned $56,844 or less in 2020. The average EITC amount received was $2,461 per return. The credit is worth as much as $6,660 for a family with three or more children or up to $538 for taxpayers who do not have a qualifying child, according to IRS.gov.
This tax season, taxpayers can use their 2019 earned income to figure their 2020 EITC and the Child Tax Credit if their 2019 earned income was more than their 2020 earned income. To qualify for EITC, people must have earned income, so this may help workers who earned less in 2020 or received unemployment income instead of their regular wages.
Economic Impact Payments that were received are not taxable or counted as income toward claiming the EITC. Eligible individuals who did not receive the full amounts of both Economic Impact Payments may claim the Recovery Rebate Credit on their 2020 tax return. For more information, visit https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/recovery-rebate-credit.