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Tax Tips: Free help from qualified volunteers

One way for low income taxpayers to get help with preparing and filing their federal income tax returns is through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. The organizations participating in the VITA program solicit qualified tax preparers to volunteer to provide services to taxpayers. The services are available to individuals and families with income under $42,000.

VITA was created in 1969, and plays an important role for low income and elderly people. So far this year, VITA volunteers have helped prepare and file over 3 million tax returns. The income tax code is incredibly complex, and even for taxpayers with so-called "simple" tax returns, the process can seem daunting. Certain items like the child credit and earned income credit, both of which many low income taxpayers qualify for, can be confusing and require the help of a professional.

The Internal Revenue Service has just awarded $8 million in grants to organizations participating in the VITA system, so the help available to consumers will be expanded. To locate the VITA sites in your state, call 1-800-829-1040.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.

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