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Tax Articles

Free tax preparation available for millions of families

Millions of individuals and families can have their tax returns filed free. The IRS sponsors two programs with thousands of sites across the country, available to people with lower and moderate incomes:

  • Volunteer Income Tax Assistance: The VITA program offers free tax return preparation for eligible taxpayers who generally earn $55,000 or less.
  • Tax Counseling for the Elderly: TCE is mainly for people age 60 or older, but offers service to all taxpayers. The program focuses on tax issues unique to seniors. AARP participates in this program through AARP Tax-Aide.

The IRS works with local community groups to certify thousands of volunteers who are trained in the latest tax law. Eligible taxpayers should consider taking advantage of these free programs. This includes people with disabilities and people who speak limited English.

Here are some additional details about these two programs:

  • Free tax prep around the country. The IRS works with community organizations to offer free tax help at thousands of sites nationwide. Most of these sites are open now.
  • Free electronic filing. VITA and TCE provide free electronic filing. E-file is the safest, most accurate way to file a tax return. Taxpayers can combine e-file with direct deposit for quicker refunds.
  • Volunteer preparers trained to help find tax benefits. Certified volunteers help people get all the tax benefits for which they are eligible. These include the earned income tax credit, American opportunity tax credit, credit for the elderly, child tax credit and credit for other dependents.
  • Bilingual help. Some VITA and TCE sites provide bilingual assistance.
  • Help for military. Many military bases have VITA sites offering free tax assistance to members of the military and their families. Volunteers can help with military tax topics, which include special rules and tax benefits that apply to those serving in combat zones.
  • Self-preparation option. At many VITA sites, people who earn $66,000 or less may be able to prepare their own tax returns. They can do this by using free web-based software. This option is for those who do not have a home computer and do not need much help.
  • Site information available on IRS.gov. Taxpayers can find the nearest VITA site by using the VITA Locator on IRS.gov. Sites are currently open, but the IRS is still adding some to the locator. Taxpayers can also find sites by downloading the IRS2Go app or calling the IRS at 800-906-9887. Find more on AARP Tax-Aide locations by using the AARP Locator.

This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific, individualized tax advice as individual situations will vary. Royal Alliance Associates, Inc., Georgetown Capital and its advisors are not engaged in rendering tax advice.

Prepared by the IRS. For more information go to www.irs.gov.

Here are five facts about the new Form 1040

There are several changes to the 2018 Form 1040. However, taxpayers who file electronically may not notice the changes as the tax return preparation software guides people through the filing process.

The IRS worked closely with its partners in the tax return preparation and tax software industries to prepare for tax reform and tax form changes affecting tax year 2018, including the Form 1040. This ongoing collaboration ensures that taxpayers can continue to rely on the IRS, tax professionals and tax software programs when it’s time to file their tax returns.

Here are five things taxpayers need to know about the 2018 Form 1040.

  • The 2018 Form 1040 replaces Forms 1040,1040A and 1040EZ with one 2018 Form 1040 that all taxpayers will file. 
  • Forms 1040A and 1040EZ are no longer available. Taxpayers who used one of these forms in the past will now file Form 1040.
  • The 2018 Form 1040 uses a “building block” approach and allows taxpayers to add only the schedules they need to their 2018 tax return.
  • The most commonly used lines on the prior year form are still on the form. Other lines are moved to new schedules and are organized by category. These categories include income, adjustments to income, nonrefundable credits, taxes, payments, and refundable credits.
  • Many taxpayers will only need to file Form 1040 and no schedules. Those with more complicated tax returns will need to complete one or more of the 2018 Form 1040 Schedules along with their Form 1040. These taxpayers include people claiming certain deductions or credits, or owing additional taxes.

Electronic filers may not notice any changes because the tax return preparation software will automatically use their answers to the tax questions to complete the Form 1040 and any needed schedules.

For taxpayers who filed paper returns in the past and are concerned about these changes, this year may be the year to consider the benefits of filing electronically. Using tax software is convenient, safe and a secure way to prepare and e-file an accurate tax return.

This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific, individualized tax advice as individual situations will vary. Royal Alliance Associates, Inc., Georgetown Capital and its advisors are not engaged in rendering tax advice.

Prepared by the IRS. For more information go to www.irs.gov.

Here’s what taxpayers should do to protect private data

Taxpayers should protect their personal and financial data from criminals who continue to steal large amounts of information. Thieves use the data to file bogus tax returns and commit crimes while impersonating the victim.  

All taxpayers should follow these steps to protect themselves and their data.

Keep a secure computer. Taxpayers should:

  • Use security software that updates automatically. Essential tools for keeping a secure computer include a firewall, virus and malware protection, and file encryption for sensitive data.
  • Treat personal information like cash; don’t leave it lying around.
  • Give personal information only over encrypted and trusted websites.
  • Use strong passwords and protect them.

Avoid Phishing and Malware. Taxpayers should:

  • Not respond to emails, texts or calls that appear to be from the IRS, tax companies and other well-known businesses. Instead, verify contact information about companies or agencies by going directly to their website.
  • Be cautious of email attachments. Think twice before opening them.
  • Turn off the option to automatically download attachments.
  • Download and install software only from known and trusted websites.

Protect personal information. Taxpayers should:

  • Not routinely carry a Social Security card or other documents showing a Social Security number.
  • Not overshare personal information on social media. This includes information about past addresses, a new car, a new home and children.
  • Keep old tax returns and tax records under lock and key.
  • Safeguard electronic files by encrypting and properly disposing them.
  • Shred tax documents before trashing.

Taxpayers should forward IRS-related scam emails to [email protected] They can report IRS impersonation telephone calls at www.tigta.gov.

This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific, individualized tax advice as individual situations will vary. Royal Alliance Associates, Inc., Georgetown Capital and its advisors are not engaged in rendering tax advice.

Prepared by the IRS. For more information go to www.irs.gov.