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As tax season begins, seniors may face new questions this year.
A record 5.9% adjustment in the cost of Social Security last year likely boosted their earnings.
Meanwhile, other income, such as required minimum distributions, other retirement account withdrawals, or part-time or full-time employment can make filing more difficult.
A recent survey by the Senior Citizens League found that 57% of older taxpayers are concerned that more of their Social Security benefits will be taxed.
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The good news is that quality tax filing assistance is available, and in some cases, it’s free.
On February 1, the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program begins providing free in-person and virtual tax assistance.
The program focuses on low- and moderate-income taxpayers age 50 and older.
However, according to Lynnette Lee-Villanueva, assistant vice president of tax at AARP, it is open to taxpayers of all ages who have a less complicated return.
“This is the first year we think we’re actually going to get back to the majority of our sites being open in person,” Lee-Villanueva said of the post-pandemic comeback.
“Our volunteers are looking forward to getting back with people,” he said.
This year, seniors can also seek help from other tax professionals to meet the April 18 deadline to file their federal returns.
Tom O’Saben, director of tax content and government relations As tax season begins, it’s important to meet with someone, even if it’s just a few minutes before work, to make sure you’re on the same page. National Association of Tax Professionals.
“Get a gut feeling about whether you can relate to this person and feel like you can be sincere,” O’Saben said.
Where to find free tax help
According to Lee-Villanueva, the AARP Tax-Aide program is the largest volunteer-based tax assistance program in the country.
This program works in partnership with the IRS’ Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for Seniors (TCE) programs, which offer free tax return preparation for individuals who qualify.
AARP Tax Helper expects to have 25,000 volunteers at 3,500 sites this year in all 50 states and Washington, DC.
We save people very little money.
assistant vice president of taxation at AARP
To find a location near you and find out if you need to make an appointment or come in, more information is available on the AARP Tax Aide website or by calling 888-AARPNOW (888-227-7669).
“We save people very little money, usually a few hundred dollars, that they would have had to pay to prepare this return by an individual taxpayer,” Lee-Villanueva said.
“It’s money back in their pocket that they really should have,” he said.
In addition to the current tax year, the program can also help with filing returns for the past three years.
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This can help applicants who may have been eligible for previously extended tax credits but have not yet received the money. The government temporarily imposed a child tax and provided generous income tax credits. According to Lee-Villanueva, those workers over 65 who could benefit from the earned income tax credit if they were working in 2021.
To get the best service from the Tax-Aide program, individuals should gather all the necessary information, such as Social Security paperwork, 1099 forms, retirement income, and bank statements.
According to Lee-Villanueva, not all applicants, such as those with rental income from their property or, in most places, active duty military members, may qualify for the Tax-Aide program.
Tips for Finding Tax Professionals
According to O’Saben, there are a few things seniors should know before they turn to free tax help or hire a tax professional to help them with their return.
First, tax laws are not age-specific. “There’s no such thing as being too old or too young to be required to file taxes,” O’Saben said.
Instead, your income determines whether or not you must file a federal return.
According to O’Saben, if Social Security is your only source of income, you probably won’t be required to file. But this can change with additional income.
“The key for seniors in tax filing is communication,” O’Saben said, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
If you’re looking for a new tax preparer, ask your friends and family who they recommend.
When you first meet with a professional, ask questions to make sure you’re on the same page. Don’t be afraid to ask questions throughout the application process, O’Saben said.
Also make sure you come prepared with all the relevant forms and information. If you have selected digital-only communication with some accounts, be sure to include these forms.
Do some homework and be prepared.
director of tax content and government relations at the National Association of Tax Professionals
Keep in mind that not all transactions, such as charitable distributions from individual retirement accounts, are accompanied by a government document showing that the transfer occurred, O’Saben said.
“Someone do their homework and be prepared,” O’Saben said.
Also remember that while you can hire a tax professional to help you, it is your signature that will be placed on the tax return at the end of the process, which means that you are personally responsible for all the information on the form. you are
Also beware of tax professionals or software that promise big refunds without knowing your personal financial situation, O’Saben said.
“If you don’t feel comfortable, then you should look for another specialist,” O’Saben said.