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Getting Your Taxes Done (for Free)

Contents

    You may not have to pay a tax preparer to file your taxes this year. Many people can get help preparing their taxes for free. A list of free tax preparation locations in Michigan is available at michiganfreetaxhelp.org.

    VITA

    Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, or VITA, is a program that helps people who make roughly $50,000 or less prepare their taxes for free. At a VITA location, IRS-certified volunteers prepare tax returns for free for eligible individuals and families. VITA sites can inform taxpayers about special tax credits for which they may qualify such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit and Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled.

    Go to michiganfreetaxhelp.org to find information about local VITA sites. Check with your local VITA site for dates and times you can get help with your taxes, or call 2-1-1. Call 888-636-4211 if your area doesn’t have 2-1-1. The IRS also offers links to sites that provide free filing services at irs.gov.

    The IRS also gives links to online software you can use to prepare and file your own federal tax return. If your income is less than $57,000, you can use free software available at freefile.irs.gov to prepare your federal and possibly your state tax returns.

    Documents you need to do your taxes

    Whether you’re using a free tax preparation site, going to a paid tax preparer or using an online program, there’s information you must have to complete your tax return.

    Proof of your identity and tax status

    You’ll need to show your driver’s license or state ID to the tax preparer. You’ll also need to have proof of Social Security numbers or Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITIN) for yourself, your spouse and your dependents.

    Income Statements or Forms:

    Most year-end income statements for 2012 were mailed in January 2013. Bring all that you’ve gotten.

    • Wages (W-2 or 1099 forms from all jobs worked in 2012)

    • Unemployment (Form 1099-G)

    • Pension (Form 1099-R)

    • Social Security (Form SSA-1099)

    • Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Letter from SSA

    • Interest/Dividends (Form 1099-INT or 1099-DIV)

    • DHS Assistance (DHS Annual Statement)

    • Child Support (Child Support Annual Statement)

    • Gambling/Lottery Winnings (Form W-2G)

    • Miscellaneous Income (Form 1099-MISC)

    • A copy of your 2011 tax return, if available

    • Any other income documentation you may have

    Proof of Certain Expenses

    To get some credits and deductions on your tax return, you need to show exactly how much you spent on some things in the past year. Bring documents to show

    • Purchase of new home or automobile

    • Energy efficient home appliances and improvements (receipts should show Energy Star Rating) for insulation, windows, furnace, air conditioning system, water heater, refrigerator, clothes washer, dishwasher

    • Residential electric bills

    • Medical or HMO premiums paid for yourself and/or your family

    • Childcare expenses

    • Student loan interest or tuition and course materials

    For the Michigan Homestead Property Tax Credit

    If you’re a homeowner, bring proof of the taxable value of your home, and your summer and winter property tax bills for 2012.

    If you rent your home, bring your lease or rental contract, rent receipts for 2012, and your landlord’s name and address.

    For the Michigan Home Heating Credit

    Both renters and homeowners can qualify for this credit on their Michigan tax returns. Bring proof of the amount you spent on heating your home for the year. This information can be found in your December, January and February gas and electric statements. For 2012 taxes, the period will be 11/1/2011 to 10/31/2012.

    To Use the Direct Deposit Option:

    Direct deposit is the fastest and safest way to get your refunds. To have your state and federal refunds directly deposited into your bank or credit union account, bring your bank’s name, routing number, and your checking or savings account number.

    The Accounting Aid Society has created this checklist you can print to help you gather the documents you need.