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Volunteer income tax assistance

Heard of volunteer income tax assistance but aren’t sure what it means? Bankrate explains.

What is volunteer income tax assistance?

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program provides free income tax assistance to U.S. taxpayers. The program is sponsored by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and provides volunteers who offer free basic income tax return preparation services. Another IRS program similar to VITA is Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE), which offers free tax help to taxpayers aged 60 and older.

Deeper definition

VITA is available for taxpayers with annual gross income of less than $54,000, disabilities, or limited English proficiency. The program is offered from January through April at various sites across the U.S. VITA saves low-income households millions of dollars by helping them take full advantage of tax credits and deductions.

Established in 1971 by California State University professor Gary Iskowitz, the program uses accounting students to provide low- and moderate-income taxpayers with free tax return preparation services. The students provide valuable community services and benefit from a practical learning experience.

The volunteers aren’t professional tax preparers, but they do receive training that leads to certification, which requires a certain number of hours in a tax training class administered by the IRS. The IRS and local community agencies work together to provide these training courses at no charge to the volunteers.

Looking for help getting started on your taxes? Check out Bankrate’s tax center.

Volunteer income tax assistance example

Taxpayers who use the VITA program have the same potential refunds as anyone else. They can receive a check in the mail or have the funds directly deposited into a bank account. The delay is no different for those using a volunteer service compared to those who use a more conventional tax preparation service.

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