Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE)

Alert: To protect the public and employees, and in compliance with orders of local health authorities around the country, certain IRS services such as live assistance on telephones, processing paper tax returns and responding to correspondence are extremely limited or suspended until further notice. Get up-to-date status on affected IRS operations and services.

If you have limited income and need help preparing your federal tax return, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program or Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program may be able to help you.

Each year, VITA and TCE sites serve taxpayers in communities throughout the country. IRS-certified volunteers staff these sites. They provide free tax preparation and electronic filing for basic tax returns.

You must meet some basic guidelines to use the VITA or TCE programs:

  • VITA provides free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to taxpayers who generally make $56,000 or less, persons with disabilities and taxpayers with limited English proficiency who need assistance with preparing their own returns.  
  • TCE offers free tax help for all taxpayers, particularly those who are 60 years of age or older. Volunteers at TCE sites have specialized training in pension and retirement issues.

Be aware of what VITA and TCE volunteers can and can’t do

These services help you with simple tax returns. IRS Publication 3676-B, IRS Certified Volunteers Providing Free Tax Preparation, will help you determine what types of returns that VITA and TCE can and can’t help prepare.

Gather your paperwork and information

If you're married and filing a joint tax return, both spouses must be present during the tax return preparation. Before visiting a VITA or TCE site, you should gather certain documents, including:

  • Photo identification for yourself and your spouse;
  • Social Security cards or a verification letter from the Social Security Administration for you and anyone who’ll be listed on your tax return;
  • Birth dates for everyone who’ll be listed on your tax return;
  • Wage and income statements – commonly called IRS Form W-2 and IRS Form 1099 (remember to include all earned income even if you did not receive an IRS Form W2 or IRS Form 1099);
  • A copy of last year’s federal income tax return;
  • Bank account information if you want your tax refund direct deposited; and
  • Information to claim deductions, such as:
    • Daycare provider information – name, tax identification number, total amount paid,
    • Health care information – IRS Form 1095-A, B, or C, and out-of-pocket expenses,
    • Home mortgage interest paid, and
    • Real estate taxes paid

    IRS Publication 3676-B also lists what you should bring with you to the VITA or TCE site.

    Self-preparation option

    At select tax sites, taxpayers also have an option to prepare their own basic federal and state tax return for free using Web-based tax preparation software with an IRS-certified volunteer to help guide you through the process. This option is only available at locations that list “Self-Prep” in the online site listing.

    Find your local site

    You can find the closest VITA or TCE site online at Get Free Tax Prep Help or by calling 800-906-9887.

    Note: Some sites are available by appointment only; you may want to check before walking in.

    During your appointment

    Bring all your tax documents and be prepared to answer questions — they’re necessary for the volunteer to prepare a correct tax return. After the volunteer has finished your tax return, you’ll be told the amount of your expected tax refund or the amount you owe. If you wish, the volunteer will electronically file your tax return. The volunteer must give you a copy of your return.

    VITA and TCE programs offer free e-filing. Filing electronically may help you receive your tax refund faster. It also helps ensure your tax return is accurate by verifying Social Security numbers, names, birth dates, and checking the math.

    If your IRS problem is causing you financial hardship, you've tried repeatedly and aren't receiving a response from the IRS, or you feel your taxpayer rights aren't being respected, consider contacting the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS).

    Browse common tax issues and situations at Get Help.

    You may be eligible for representation from an attorney, Certified Public Accountant (CPA), or Enrolled Agent (EA) associated with a Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) for little or no cost. Low Income Taxpayer Clinics also provide information about taxpayer rights and responsibilities in different languages for individuals who speak English as a second language.

    Last modified September 3, 2020