The IRS offers free tax help and tax return preparation services through volunteer organizations. These organizations provide tax counseling for elders and volunteers to help low-income individuals and families prepare their tax documents. In exchange, the IRS provides grants for these organizations.
What Are TCE, VITA, and Tax Counseling Services?
Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) and Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) are national programs headed by the IRS to help elderly Americans over 60 and lower-income Americans across the country get tax preparation assistance for free at approved websites.
These programs provide tax counseling for elders, and volunteers help lower-income families prepare their tax returns using community resources through nonprofit groups. TCE and VITA organizations get training for their members to provide services to their communities by IRS-certified volunteers.
Most IRS-certified volunteers are retired individuals who commit their time and energy to volunteering with their local organization. These organizations receive grants from the IRS to become TCE/VITA sites, usually for up to three years.
All volunteers must take and pass a tax law training course meeting or exceeding IRS standards. This training includes confidentiality and privacy training for handling taxpayer information properly. Additionally, the IRS requires a quality review check for all tax returns prepared by a TCE/VITA volunteer before filing.
In 2022, TCE and VITA programs helped taxpayers file over 1.8 million tax returns. Through its grant program, the IRS awarded $41 million to 344 TCE and VITA site organizers last year. Both programs make tax preparation services available to some of the most underserved communities in the country.
Who Qualifies for Free Tax Preparation with TCE and VITA?
Which people or communities gain the most from having a local TCE or VITA site? Started in 1969, the VITA program generally serves those who:
- Earn $60,000 or less annually
- Have disabilities
- Have limited English-speaking abilities
- Live in hard-to-reach areas
VITA makes tax preparation more accessible for community members who lack resources like reliable home internet or who have complex personal situations like filing taxes while receiving government benefits.
TCE offers free tax help for people 60 years old or older and specializes in questions about retirement account earnings (IRAs, 401(k)s, etc.) and pension payments. Older Americans can use TCE sites for help preparing their taxes as they draw on retirement savings and work part-time if they aren’t ready to retire fully.
How to Apply for a Grant to Offer TCE/VITA Programs
If your organization wants to become a VITA or TCE site, the IRS is accepting grant applications for TCE and VITA grants. To apply for a VITA or TCE grant, you must file your application, proposal, budget, and other forms. Your application must include:
Contact an Experienced Tax Firm for Tax Assistance
If you’re interested in providing tax counseling for elders and volunteers for tax preparation, contact us at Levy & Associates Tax Consultants for help. Call us at 800-TAX-LEVY (800-829-5389) or contact us online to speak with a tax professional at our offices in Lathrup Village, MI, or Delray Beach, FL.