Our new Financial Stability Manager has a wealth of information for tax season. Andrew Johnson works hard to help taxpayers in our community find free and easy ways to get taxes filed before the deadline. Johnson manages the VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) program for those who qualify for free tax preparation. He also leads the training for the VITA volunteers. We appreciate his efforts and his time, as he answered our questions and gathered several tips to help us all prepare for tax season.
What credits are most often missed?
The Homestead Property Tax Credit is often missed and is useful for those who may have Social Security income. Johnson says those who own or rent can take advantage of the credit if they qualify.
I am so proud of my child for receiving a college scholarship. Do I need to worry about that at tax time?
Scholarships can be counted as income if the funds exceed tuition and expenses. Items like room and board are not included as qualified expenses, so be sure to check the details of the scholarship.
I’ve never filed taxes before. Help!
Johnson first recommends that we view the 13614-C Form to find potential deductions. This document will also list all of the forms that are needed from your place of employment. If you are getting help with preparations, be sure to bring a photo ID or driver’s license and Social Security cards for you and any dependents.
I qualified for free tax preparation and signed up for a VITA appointment. Now what?
Don’t worry, you are in good hands. Our volunteers are well trained and here to help. We also have greeters that help answer questions throughout the process. You will not be charged any fee or percentage for our services.
Can you recommend any strategy for filing and keeping receipts?
Johnson recommends an app or spreadsheet for keeping track of expenses. If taxpayers are planning to itemize for deductions, they will need receipts. In particular, those who are self-employed should keep business-related receipts for services they provide (for example, an Uber driver can claim car washes and bottled water that was provided to customers). Standard deductions are wise for most people as it lowers taxable income. You can access Publication 4012 (the free IRS Volunteer Resource Guide utilized by VITA volunteers) to see how these might benefit you.
Is filing married the right choice?
The answer is almost always YES. Johnson says even ill-fated marriages are better off filing jointly, in order to collect tax credits. They may use Form 8888, which allows partners with separate accounts to file jointly. He also says that filing jointly will likely increase the option for an education credit. Lastly, widowed taxpayers are permitted to file as married for up to 2 years following a partner’s death.
With IRS Certified VITA volunteers that provide free, trustworthy, and reliable services, VITA tax preparation is a service that United Way of Washtenaw County is proud to provide. Schedule an appointment today at uwgive.org/freetaxhelp