Sunday, March 15, 2015

Tax Time: Finding Assistance

If you drive a car, I'll tax the street
If you try to sit, I'll tax your seat
If you get too cold, I'll tax the heat
If you take a walk, I'll tax your feet

--The Beatles, Taxman, on Revolver (1966)

With just a month left until tax day (Wednesday, April 15), it's time to get serious about completing 2014 federal and state tax returns. This is the first year in which all Americans are required to maintain health insurance under the 2010 Affordable Care Act (see TurboTax overview of the most recent changes), and your once-familiar tax forms may look a bit different as a result. Although the Goodson Law Library staff cannot answer substantive tax-related questions (such as "what forms do I need to file?" or help with interpreting the form instructions), the Goodson Blogson can recommend some starting places for finding tax assistance.

 Before you pay for a professional tax preparation service, consider whether you qualify for the IRS Free File program. This service links qualifying taxpayers to free electronic federal tax preparation service (state tax preparation may also be available in some cases). Note that your adjusted gross income must be $60,000 or less in order to take full advantage of the Free File software. However, those with higher income can still use Free File Fillable Forms to fill out their federal returns.

You might also qualify for assistance from VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance), a program in which trained volunteers assist with preparation for low- to moderate-income taxpayers, as well as senior citizens. Duke Law's VITA chapter has posted their calendar for spring 2015; please note that advance appointments are strongly encouraged. For readers outside the Durham area, the IRS maintains a list of VITA sites around the country.

If your taxes turn out to be too complicated, you might need to hire a professional. The IRS has tips for choosing a tax professional as well as instructions for filing complaints if needed.

 Good luck—and for the perpetual procrastinators, there's always an automatic extension. However, filing an extension doesn't include an extension of time to pay estimated taxes! (IRS Free File can be used by taxpayers at all income levels to file an extension.)

More information about federal tax law can be found in the Goodson Law Library's research guide to Federal Tax; for help locating these materials, be sure to Ask a Librarian.