This is post sponsored by Goodwill. All opinions are 100% my own. See our disclosure policy for more details.
Free Tax Preparation and Filing Centers around the Country
It is tax season and it is time to start thinking about gathering all those tax documents you received in the mail the last few weeks & going through all your paperwork to work on your taxes. For many of you, this may be a time of welcome relief as you are expecting a large tax return. Or for those of you who will be paying hefty taxes to the government, you may put it off as long as possible or just get it over with, so you know how much you owe quickly.
I just recently learned that one in 5 eligible taxpayers miss out on refunds from tax credits every year. Even if you are getting a refund, you may not be getting as much as you should be. This can be because you are doing your own taxes and you may not be aware of all the ways you can earn tax credits or you skip filing taxes because you don’t believe you are due any tax refund back. There are also changes that are made many years that you may not be aware of. The tax software will offer suggestions about tax credits and possible deductions, but it still may miss important pieces that you may not realize you qualify for and that’s where a tax professional comes in to help you decipher whether those tax credits or deductions could apply to your unique situation. However, it can be pricey to visit tax professionals.
I had the opportunity to visit a Super Refund Saturday event last Saturday at the Goodwill Milgard Work Opportunity Center, which was sponsored by Key Bank. At this event, I learned that there are some great options for families who qualify to receive FREE tax assistance and tax preparation from a tax professional. I honestly had no idea that there were so many services available all around Western Washington and all around the United States. Not only are you getting free tax assistance, but they will actually sit with you & they will file your taxes for you on the IRS website, so you can get it all taken care of that day.
Details about Free Tax Centers:
Here in Western Washington, there are 75 free tax centers all around the area which the public can take advantage of if you qualify with the income requirements. The way to find a location near you is to head to the IRS tax payer assistance website and they have a list of locations when you input your zipcode. You can choose locations that are 5, 10, 25 or more miles away. This program is called the IRS VITA program (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) and they also offer the TCE program (Tax Counseling for the Elderly) as well, which you can find details about on this website.
I put in my zipcode & 10 miles away or closer and there were over 10 locations near me, at least one in every town nearby. So, there are quite a few locations & you can see a list of where they are located, the times & hours that the center is open and any other details such as if an appointment is necessary, etc.
Income Requirements for Free Tax Help:
These free tax centers are for those who qualify based on income & most of the free tax centers are for those whose income is $54,000 or less. However, there may be some tax centers who also can give tax advice to those whose income is $64,000 or less. The only way to find this out is to call the centers near you & ask what the income requirements are.
For those with income $54,000 or less, the volunteer certified tax preparer with sit with you and prepare your taxes for you (just like a paid service such as HR Block, etc.
For those with the income of $54,000 – $64,000, the individual must log on & file the taxes themselves; however the tax preparer may advise you on how to do your taxes.
If you are close to these income requirements, definitely call & talk to someone at the center, to see if you can qualify. It is always suggested to make an appointment to avoid a long wait, too.
Goodwill Tacoma Free Tax Center:
Goodwill’s Milgard Work Opportunity Center is offering a FREE weekday tax preparation & filing this tax season for individuals/families. To qualify for the free tax services at this location, your income needs to be $54,000 or less & you will need to call to make an appointment.
This free tax center is sponsored by Key Bank, IRS VITA Program (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance), Goodwill of the Olympics & Rainier Region & the Pierce County Asset Building Coalition. Last year, Goodwill’s Milgard Tax Center provided free tax assistance and free tax filing to over 1000 people.
Key Bank is also providing Free Tax Preparation Check Cashing Vouchers – so if you do not have a bank, you can bring your check to Key Bank & get it cashed for free if you get your taxes done at the Goodwill Milgard Tax Center.
Location: 714 S 27th St
Times: Tuesdays – Thursdays 3:30 – 7:30 pm
How to Sign Up: Check out the Goodwill website & you’ll find all the details on registering for an appointment at the center
Why You Should Visit a Tax Professional:
Even if you have been successfully doing your taxes on your own for awhile, there are frequently changes to the tax laws & the tax credits, so this is a really good opportunity for you to make sure you are accounting for all the tax credits you might qualify for.
This free tax service will help folks make sure you do not miss out on tax credit refunds, including the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), Child Tax Credit, and Credit for the Elderly or Disabled. As your personal circumstances might change, you may be eligible for more tax credits than you are expecting.
Important Tip: If you are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), you can file up to 3 prior years to secure those tax refunds that you may have missed in the previous years. So, not only will you make sure that you are receiving the maximum tax refund this year, but you may also qualify for additional tax refunds from the previous 3 years.
Tips for Visiting a Free Tax Center:
Make an appointment, if possible:
Most of the locations I saw on the website do take walk-ins, but I learned at the Super Refund Saturday that these sites can get very busy and they do suggest that you try to make an appointment if possible. Some locations may have more limited hours, so by calling ahead for an appointment, you can decrease your wait time to see a tax preparer.
What to Bring:
Here’s what you should bring to your appointment (if applicable):
- W-2 forms
- Social Security Card for yourself, your spouse, each child/dependent
- 1099 forms (these are interest, earnings as independent contractors)
- Unemployment form
- Proof of childcare payments
- State issued photo ID
- Last year’s tax return (if available)
- Bank account and routing number for direct deposit (if applicable)
The more organized you are with all of your paperwork ready to go & everything filled out, the faster and easier the experience will be for you. If you do think that you might be eligible for additional tax credits from the previous years too, make sure to bring that paperwork with you as well.
IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service:
While I was at the Super Refund Saturday event, I learned about a useful service available to us here in the Northwest (as well as around the country). The IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service is a free service for anyone who files taxes (this has no income requirements). If you have specific questions about your taxes or you are having a hardship & want to find out ways to make it work with the IRS, this is a local advocacy service that is part of the IRS. But, their job is to work with you & find ways to help you if you are in need of answers directly from the IRS or solutions to help in hardship situations. Of course, you can call the general IRS number, but I thought it was nice to have a local option to talk to someone from the IRS.
For those in the Puget Sound area – the local Seattle office number is: (206) 946-3707.
The folks from the IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service are also available to go to events (such as the Super Refund Saturday event I was at) to be a resource for people who have questions about their taxes, so keep that in mind if you are a group organizer and want to have professionals at your event to answer tax questions for people.
Find a FREE Tax Preparation and Filing Center near you!