What Seniors Must Know Before Filing Their 2011 Tax Return (Part 2)

For seniors, the Internal Revenue Service is divided into 2 parts:

(1) The Good IRS and

(2) The Bad IRS

The Bad IRS – that’s the one we are all familiar with – its job is to try to take as much money from you as it can.

The Good IRS – we don’t hear too much about them – its job is to save you as much money as it can.

This is the second in a series of articles about the Good IRS and information and resources it makes available to help seniors through the onerous task of filing their tax returns. In Part 1 we discussed the best place to begin – IRS Publication 554 Tax Guide for Seniors – and some of the things it says you must know before you file your 2011 return. In Part 2 we cover IRS-recommended sources of free tax information for seniors.

As we are all painfully aware, doing taxes is, well, painful. And its often confusing and intimidating – especially for seniors who are frequently treated differently by parts of the tax code. Given that the 2011 Form 1040 Instructions “Booklet” is 100 pages long (sounds more like an encyclopedia to me), you should not be too proud to seek help in doing your return. And there is plenty of help available. Publication 554 http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p554.pdf has some of the best sources for free tax assistance for seniors. It offers several ways to get live and online help with tax issues, order free publications and forms, ask tax questions, and get other information from the IRS.

Live help. The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program is designed to help low-moderate income taxpayers and the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program is designed to assist taxpayers age 60 and older with their tax returns. Most VITA and TCE sites offer free electronic filing and all volunteers will let you know about credits and deductions you may be entitled to claim. To find the nearest VITA or TCE site, visit IRS.gov or call 1-800-906-9887 or 1-800-829-1040. As part of the TCE program, AARP offers the Tax-Aide counseling program. To find the nearest AARP Tax-Aide site, call 1-888-227-7669 or visit AARP’s website at www.aarp.org/money/taxaide. For more information on these programs, go to IRS.gov and enter keyword “VITA” in the upper right-hand corner. The IRS itself is also available to help with a specific tax question at 1-800-829-1040.

Online. In addition to live help, the IRS website at http://www.irs.gov/index.html is available to download forms, instructions, and publications; research your tax questions online; search IRS publications online; search the Internal Revenue Code, regulations, or other official guidance; and view Internal Revenue Bulletins.

Part 3 of “What Seniors Must Know Before Filing Their 2011 Tax Return” will address the eternal question, “Do I need to file a tax return this year”.

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