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Options for filing income taxes

Dear Editor,

Tax filing season is nearing an end. There are a few options for filing income taxes. Some people still prefer to get the tax forms and instructions from IRS, also available at the library, figure their own taxes on paper, and mail them in with their tax payment or request for refund.

IRS however prefers that all taxes be filed electronically. Many people buy tax software such as TurboTax, H&R Block Taxcut, Tax Act, Taxslayer or a few others. But many people are reluctant to do either and seek help. Professional help can be found at H&R Block, Jackson-Hewitt, and numerous independent accountants and tax preparation businesses. Prices vary widely. I have heard of simple W-2 only type taxpayers being charged anywhere between $50 and $300, the independent businesses usually being lower priced than the national chains. Even $50 is a big expense for lower income people trying to file their taxes honestly. The IRS website offered several options to file federal taxes for free, but sometimes fees were required to pay state taxes, often not mentioned until everything is done and you are ready to file.

This year the website myfreetaxes.com allowed people with adjusted gross income (AGI) up to $66,000 to prepare and file their own taxes online without paying any filing fees. Many people are reluctant to try this. That is where VITA comes in. Volunteer Income Tax Assistance is sponsored by IRS to allow free help for taxpayers with AGI up to $54,000 reported on W-2 and 1099 forms, and self-employed. In recent years this help was available at the Pulaski County Court House, New River Community Action (412 North Jefferson in Pulaski), and the senior center. Unfortunately, this year this help was only available at Community Action. AARP in Christiansburg also offers this service, with a higher AGI limit.

Over 130 people from all over Pulaski County have come to Community Action to get tax preparation help. As the only volunteer it has been overwhelming. All appointment times are scheduled and some people asking for help have been turned away. I have had some help with volunteers from Blacksburg. There is a big need for more volunteers next year. If you like meeting people, playing with the computer tax software, and are willing to take the time to learn basic tax law and pass the required tests to become certified, call Community Action at 980-5525 to learn more about being a part of this service next year.

Gilbert Vice

VITA volunteer

New River Community Action

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