Free tax help
State and federal tax help available
How much does a consumer have to earn before he must pay taxes? Does he have to pay taxes on his pension? What is the standard deduction for seniors? What, if any, taxes does a consumer have to pay on her Social Security benefits? What does an older Ohioan have to do to receive the Credit for the Elderly or Disabled?
To deal with confusing, complicated and ever-changing tax laws, various programs offer free tax return preparation. Assistance includes help to receive special credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), Child Tax Credit and Credit for the Elderly.
- The Ohio Department of Taxation maintains taxpayer service centers throughout Ohio, where any Ohio citizen can receive face-to-face assistance with questions about state taxes. Consumers also can e-mail tax questions.
- The IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program offers free tax help to people with lower incomes (generally, $40,000 per year or less) who cannot prepare their own tax returns. Certified volunteers sponsored by various organizations help prepare basic tax returns in communities across the country. To locate the nearest VITA site, call 1-800-906-9887.
- The Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) Program provides free tax help to people age 60 and older. Trained with IRS materials and certified by an IRS examination, volunteers provide free tax counseling and assistance to older adults to prepare their federal income tax returns at community locations across the nation. For more information about TCE, call 1-800-829-1040.
- The Ohio Benefits Bank (OBB) has trained counselors in all 88 Ohio counties to help eligible Ohioans prepare and file federal and Ohio income tax returns at no cost. Free income tax assistance is also available through an online, self-service program. Ohioans can also check their potential eligibility for programs such as health care coverage, home energy assistance, child care subsidies and food assistance.
- AARP offers the Tax-Aide counseling program at more than 7,000 sites nationwide during the filing season. Trained and certified Tax-Aide volunteer counselors help people of low to middle income, with special attention to people age 60 and older. To locate the nearest AARP Tax-Aide site, call 1-888-227-7669.
Most of these programs also offer free electronic filing (e-filing). People who file their returns electronically receive their refunds in half the time compared to returns filed on paper. Consumers can receive their refunds even faster if they have them deposited directly into their bank accounts. Any tax preparation program will need you to provide:
- Proof of identification (a picture ID or driver license);
- Social Security numbers for you, your spouse and any dependents you are claiming on your return;
- Birth dates for you, your spouse and any dependents;
- Wage and earning statements (Forms W-2, W-2G or 1099-R) from all employers;
- Interest and dividend statements from banks (Form 1099);
- A copy of last year's tax return;
- If you were paid Social Security benefits, your SSA-1099;
- If you received a pension or annuity, your 1099-R;
- All forms indicating federal income tax paid;
- If applicable, unemployment compensation statements;
- Child care provider information (name, provider's Social Security Number or Employer Identification Number);
- All receipts or canceled checks for items such as medical expenses, taxes paid, mortgage interest paid and charitable contributions, if you are itemizing deductions; and
- Bank routing numbers and account numbers for direct deposit of any refunds into your account.
If you and your spouse are filing taxes electronically on a married, joint tax return, you both must be present to sign the forms.
You can contact the IRS to request a free copy of your previous year's tax return by calling 1-800-829-1040, or you can order by mail using IRS Form 4506T. Your public library usually will have copies of the form, or you can find it online at www.IRS.gov.
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Research & Resources
Nearly 80 percent of older adults have at least one chronic disease. Almost 11,000 senior centers serve one million older adults every day. These facts and more are available in the National Council on Aging new fact sheets. The resource also includes data on healthy aging, senior centers, economic security for seniors and mature workers.
The Families and Work Institute has released a report that analyzes data on caregiving based on the ongoing National Study of the Changing Workforce. The authors found that 42 percent of employed Americans have provided elder care in the past five years, and women are more likely to provide family care on a regular basis and spend more time than men providing care. In terms of caregiver health, 44 percent of family caregivers report that being a caregiver has had a negative impact on the way they take care of themselves.
Report highlights aging and disability resource centers
A report from the National Health Policy Forum at George Washington University, "Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs): Federal and State Efforts to Guide Consumers Through the Long-Term Services and Supports Maze", explains that there are currently 325 ADRCs in 45 states with considerable variation in their capabilities and how they function. The U.S. Administration on Aging and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services developed six criteria to measure "fully functioning" ADRCs and AoA reports that as of Sept. 2010, more than 80 percent of states and territories implementing ADRCs have achieved more than half of the measurable outcomes, while almost 30 percent have achieved more than three-quarters of the measurable outcomes. In Ohio, ADRCs are known as Aging and Disability Resource Networks (ADRNs) and are available in five areas of the state (Lima, Toledo, Rio Grande, Cleveland and Akron).