A pile of U.S. tax forms and currency along with a pair of eyeglasses

IRS-Certified Volunteers Can Help With Income Tax Preparation

A pile of U.S. tax forms and currency along with a pair of eyeglasses
(“Taxes” by Pictures of Money on Flickr, used under CC BY 2.0 license)

By Michael J. Fitzgerald

The Internal Revenue Service has more than 80,000 volunteer tax preparation experts ready this year to help individuals and families with their 2022 federal income taxes, IRS officials said Feb. 10 during a media briefing organized by Ethnic Media Services.

In addition, the officials said the agency hired more than 5,000 new “telephone assisters” to answer questions and help this tax season.

“Our phone staffing is at its highest level ever,” Kevin Morehead of the IRS said. He added that the agency has added in-person staff to help too in its taxpayer assistance service.

>>>Read: Tax Season Is Here. Here’s How to Prepare

The media briefing came as the IRS enters its busiest time of the tax season as taxpayers and tax preparers put together returns that must be filed by the April 18 deadline.

Morehead said officials are encouraged by how well the filings have been coming in so far.

One of the changes he highlighted was removal of the deduction for charitable donations for persons who do not itemize in their tax returns. Previously, non-itemizing taxpayers could take a tax deduction of up to $500. Anyone itemizing their tax returns this year will operate under the same charitable deduction rules as in past years.

Susan Simon of the IRS explained the agency provides free tax preparation help through two programs: Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly.

“We have expanded VITA tremendously,” she said. The expansion came after having to shutter many in-person sites because of concerns about COVID-19. But even during the worst of the pandemic, VITA did offer assistance online.

During COVID, about 50,000 volunteers throughout the U.S. were helping taxpayers. That number jumped to 81,000 as of last week, Simon said.

>>>Read: Tax Day 2021: What You Need to Know

Morehead and Simon also touted the expansion of the IRS multilingual initiatives.

“We have made so much progress to speak in the taxpayer’s language,” Simon said. Included in that is expansion of free interpreter services on all toll free phone lines. Previously, interpreters were available only select lines, she said.

“You can call and get assistance in any of 350 languages,” she said. All of the VITA sites have interpreters available too. And many of the commonly used IRS forms have been translated and available online in a number of languages, including Spanish, simplified Chinese, traditional Chinese, Haitian, Korean, Vietnamese and Russian.

“We’re working to build our library of translated forms,” Simon said.

She added that there are a variety of online tools that can be used additional languages and that the IRS is meeting with communities to ensure the IRS is meeting the needs of the taxpayers and providing the information they need to understand the tax system.

The IRS also operates an “Alternative Media Center” which provides Braille and large text along with translated Braille and large text.

Simon encouraged taxpayers to check out IRS.gov for a full look at the panoply of tools and services the IRS offers.

Both IRS representatives said they understood there are concerns about people who work in the so-called gig economy. They pointed to the agency’s Gig Economy Tax Center on the IRS website to advise taxpayers. There are also two publications there that address the issues directly.

Green energy tax credits for eligible automobiles were also discussed. Morehead suggested that persons who had purchased new or used cars they thought might be eligible should go to the IRS website for the list of specifics about vehicles and instructions on filing.

“But if it’s purchased new, it’s a $7,500 credit,” Morehead said. In 2023, it’s likely some used vehicles will also be eligible.

Both Morehead and Simon stressed that despite the unfavorable opinion many people have of the IRS, the agency is making great strides to be helpful.

“We’re not the bad guys. Truly, we are not,” Simon said.

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