VOLUNTEER INCOME TAX ASSISTANCE
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Volunteer Income Tax Assistance
Free, quality tax preparation from IRS-certified preparers to individuals and families
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program through United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona provides free, quality tax preparation from IRS-certified preparers to individuals and families earning up to $66,000 annually.
Our VITA program helps taxpayers access all tax credits for which they are eligible – including the Child Tax Credit (CTC), the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), and for eligible older adults, the Arizona Property Tax Credit.
VITA is a community initiative led by United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona, in collaboration with Catholic Community Services and partners throughout Northern and Western Arizona. Together, and largely through a network of dedicated volunteers, this collaborative serves residents in nine of Arizona’s fifteen counties.
Choose the Option that Works Best for You
Connect with our VITA tax preparers online.
The GetYourRefund.org portal plans to stay open through October 15, 2021. Click ‘Get Started,’ and on the next page ‘File taxes with help’ to begin. An internet connection, email address, and images of your necessary documents are all you need to get started.
Most sites are now closed for the 2021 season.
However, Pio Decimo volunteer tax specialists are available for limited appointments. Call 520-416-4754 for availability.
Do your taxes for free, yourself.
Online services exist for individuals who feel confident completing their taxes without assistance. This option should be available through October 15, 2021.
Child Tax Credit Information
The Child Tax Credit has changed for the 2021 tax year. Taxpayers should expect to receive a total of $3,000 total per child ages 6-17 and $3,600 total per child under 6 years old for each child they intend to claim on their 2021 tax return.
Half of this credit will be paid out early as monthly payments of $250-$300, starting in mid-July 2021. Monthly payments will continue through December 2021, at which time half of the credit will have been paid out and the second half will need to be claimed on the 2021 tax return. The IRS plans to send out letters for each of the monthly payments. We recommend holding onto those letters for your 2021 taxes to verify which payments you receive.
- Income Requirements: $75,000 for a single filer / $112,500 for head of household / $150,000 for married filer. If your household income is higher, you may still receive some payments.
- Social Security Number: Children must have a social security number to be eligible. Parents and guardians do not need a SSN to receive payment and can file with a ITIN.
If you filed your 2020 taxes, the IRS will use that information to understand how many children you have, your income, and banking information for where to send payments. Monthly payments will be distributed in the same way that you received any 2020 tax refunds (ex. direct deposit, IRS debit card). If you did not file your 2020 taxes, the IRS will use information from your 2019 taxes.
Get the Credit
Eligible families are encouraged to file 2020 taxes as soon as possible to ensure the IRS has the most up-to-date information. Free tax assistance is available right now, even past the filing deadline:
- Pio Decimo Center – Call 520-416-4754 to make an appointment with tax-certified volunteers.
- GetYourRefund.org/uwtsa – Upload required tax documents through a secure portal and work with tax-certified volunteers online.
- Spread the word: Child Tax Credit Flyer UWTSA – English and Spanish
- Share information on social media using our 2021 Child Tax Credit Social Media – UWTSA
- Find the most recent information from the IRS: Advance Child Tax Credit Payments in 2021
- Helpful answers to FAQs from the University of Michigan: The Child Tax Credit – What You Need To Know
- Other questions about recent tax law changes? Check out our tax resources below.
Million dollars brought back
Tax returns completed
“This program helps low-income community members and that appealed to my wife and me, so we decided to volunteer.”
Commonly Asked Questions
What is VITA?
VITA stands for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance. VITA is a program that provides free tax preparation for households earning up to $66,000 and helps them access all credits for which they are eligible, including the Earned Income Tax Credit and Property Tax Credit.
According to the IRS, as of 2019 there are approximately $29 million in unclaimed 2015 tax refunds in Arizona alone. Since 2003, VITA has brought back more than $120 million in federal refunds and credits through the VITA Task Force of Arizona.
How is using VITA different than going to a paid preparer?
There are many ways in which VITA differs from paid preparation. We invite you to try VITA and see for yourself!
- VITA tax preparation is completely free and saves filers an average of $250 per return.
- VITA tax preparers have completed extensive training and are IRS certified - this certification is not required for paid preparers in the state of Arizona.
- Each completed return undergoes a separate review process to ensure quality and accuracy.
- VITA never offers predatory lending options, such as "instant refunds" or "refund anticipation loans."
- VITA can connect filers to banking services for direct deposit of tax refunds, even for individuals in ChexSystems.
- VITA can connect filers to savings programs, such as SaveYourRefund, to make the most of their refunds.
- VITA can connect filers to healthcare education and enrollment assistance from certified assisters, at no cost to the filer.
Can I make an appointment to visit a VITA site?
VITA sites are walk-in only. If you have a limited amount of time to wait, consider using Valet VITA or self-preparation.
What types of returns can be prepared through VITA?
VITA can handle most returns, including those with self-employment and/or investment income. However, some returns are considered out-of-scope, per IRS regulations. Taxpayers with out-of-scope returns may still be eligible to use free do-it-yourself software.
Returns with any of the following cannot be prepared through VITA:
- Income/loss from rental property
- Active military pay
- Moving expenses
- Household employees
- Farm income/loss
- Credit from forms 4136, 2439, 8839 (adoption credit), 8801, 8885
- Affordable Care Act: Parts IV (Shared Policy Allocation) and V (Alternative Calculation for Year of Marriage) of Form 8962
- The following types of business returns:
- Business expenses in excess of $25,000
- Business showing a net loss
- Employee taxes
- Depreciation or amortization
- Inventory at year-end
- Business using accrual-based accounting
- Business use of home expenses
- Prior year disallowed passive activity loss
What do I need to bring to have my taxes done at a VITA site?
- Both spouses, if filing jointly
- Picture ID for taxpayer (and spouse, if filing jointly)
- Social security card (or acceptable alternative - see below) for each person listed on the return
- Proof of income, like W2s and 1099s
- Documentation of expenses
- If anyone in the household is insured through the Marketplace, Form 1095-A and dependents' proof of income
- Account and routing numbers for direct deposit of refunds
- Prior year tax return
Acceptable Alternatives for Social Security Card:
- Photocopy or photograph of Social Security card
- ITIN letter
- Social Security Benefit Statement (Form 1099-SSA)
- Military ID with Social Security number
- Any document issued by the Social Security Administration with Social Security number - last four digits must be visible
- A print-out from mySocialSecurity with the last four digits of your Social Security number visible
Please note: Per IRS regulations, a return cannot be prepared without the required documents. Prior year tax returns do NOT satisfy document requirements.
How does Valet VITA work?
Valet VITA is a service designed to save taxpayers time. Instead of waiting at a VITA site to meet with a tax preparer, taxpayers can use Valet VITA to have their documents scanned to be prepared within one to two weeks. Taxpayers are then able to leave the VITA site, documents in hand, and go about their day. Once the return is complete, the taxpayers are called to return to the original intake site to pick up a hard copy of their return and sign the consent to e-file. At select sites, taxpayers have the option of receiving their completed return via encrypted email. Most Valet VITA returns are processed in 10-15 business days.
What changes can I expect in 2021?
2021 has been a landmark year for tax law, with many late-breaking changes designed to help vulnerable and working families redeem more benefits. These updates are coming in quickly, and our staff and VITA volunteers are doing our best to keep up. We are compiling answers to frequently asked questions and other helpful resources for taxpayers here.
And remember, our VITA teams are available to work with community members, 1-on-1, on returns for free. To start working with them and hear their recommendations for your situation, visit GetYourRefund.org/uwtsa and select ‘File with the help of an expert.’ Once you upload IRS-required IDs and answer questions about your tax situation, you will be put in touch with local tax experts from United Way. These VITA volunteers can help anyone in households making $66,000 or less navigate the system to get their refunds, stimulus checks, and more.
When should I file my taxes?
The IRS has extended the filing deadline to May 17, 2021 this year, but we don’t recommend waiting until the last minute. Filing sooner rather than later is a smart move for almost everyone, especially people missing a 1st or 2nd stimulus check and anyone with a major life change (marriage, divorce, death, had a child in 2020, etc.). Changes related to preparing returns with unemployment income and marketplace insurance are now live in tax software systems too, meaning that these returns can now be prepared accurately and without amendments. As of March 30th, the IRS has also announced their plan to send payments to people receiving federal benefits during the month of April.
I have not received at least one of my stimulus payments. What is my next step?
If you are looking for the status of your third payment, we recommend checking the IRS ‘Get My Payment’ website. Note that the IRS started distributing third payments to individuals with social security, disability, and railroad benefits income at the beginning of April, and people receiving VA benefits should receive their payments in mid to late April. If you are missing your third payment and receive these benefits, you may want to wait a few weeks to see if your payment comes through before filing.
If you are missing your first or second payments, you may be eligible to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit on your 2020 taxes and we recommend filing your taxes to recoup them. Our VITA team can help you file through Get Your Refund.
How can people who are unhoused or currently experiencing homelessness receive their Economic Impact Payments?
In addition the resources and recommendations listed above, find additional information in this guide from our partners, Tucson Pima Collaboration to End Homelessness - Don't Miss Out: A Guide to 2021 Economic Impact Payments for People Experiencing Homelessness.
How can I get copies of my tax returns from previous years?
If you are looking for a past Federal return, you can also obtain prior year tax return transcripts on the IRS Get Transcript webpage. If you need a state return, you will need to contact your state’s Department of Revenue. In Arizona, the AZ DOR has a designated page for requesting copies of tax documents.
What is the Recovery Rebate Credit?
Technically, the first two rounds of stimulus checks were advance payments of the Recovery Rebate Credit on your 2020 taxes. If you didn’t receive your payments yet, you can claim the credit on your taxes and receive it now. Learn more about the credit on the IRS 2020 Recovery Rebate Credit page
How will unemployment income affect my taxes this year?
If you made less than $150,000 last year and received unemployment compensation, you can exclude up to $10,200 of that unemployment income and not pay taxes on it. Learn more about the details of unemployment and your federal return on the IRS website: New Exclusion of up to $10,200 of Unemployment Compensation
If you filed your taxes before the American Rescue Plan Act was signed (March 11th), the IRS says you will not need to amend your return – they will adjust for you. The IRS expects that refunds from these recalculations will begin to be sent out in May and continue throughout the summer (read their full announcement here).
What is the Premium Tax Credit, and how might it impact my taxes this year?
According to the IRS, the premium tax credit – also known as PTC – is a refundable credit that helps eligible individuals and families cover the premiums for their health insurance purchased through the Health Insurance Marketplace.
The American Rescue Plan Act not only reduces the cost of enrollment in these plans, but includes language to protect people with fluctuating incomes continue affording their coverage. Specifically, many people will no longer have repayment requirements on their coverage. To reap these benefits, consumers may need to go to healthcare.gov and update their application for the changes to take effect.
Learn more about the changes and steps to do if they apply for you from NBC News - Covid rescue package offers help for health insurance. Here's how to get the most benefit
What are the Child Tax Credit changes?
A change to the Child Tax Credit means that most families with children will receive up to $300 in monthly payments, starting this summer. Learn more about how this change to the Child Tax Credit came to be in this podcast from The Daily at The New York Times – A Safety Net for American Children.
Filing your taxes now is likely the best way to set your family up for receiving it, if you qualify. Learn more from C-Net Personal Finance – $3,600 Child Tax Credit for 2021 FAQ: 5 things you should know.
How can I protect myself from fraud?
Unfortunately, scams can be common during tax season - but preparing yourself to recognize them and take certain steps can reduce your risk. The website WalletHub compiled a helpful list of tips, starting with the two they deem most important: 1) File as early as possible every year, even if you don’t expect to owe any taxes or receive a refund; and 2) Take commonsense steps to safeguard your personal information, such as signing up for free 24/7 credit monitoring.
Read on for their other tips, such as ordering your tax transcript and improving your ability to recognize webpages that may not be secure or safe: Tax Scams & Tips for Avoiding Them.
Additional resources and checklists
Is tax help available year-round?
We recommend filing your return during the tax season to avoid penalties and late fees; however, help may be available until October 15 for those who need to file late returns, prior year returns or amendments.
United Way is not currently accepting appointments, but appointments can be made with our community partner, Pio Decimo Center.
Pio Decimo Center
848 S. 7th Ave
Tucson, AZ 85701
(520) 622-2801 ext. 7118
Where can I go to get more information about my tax situation?
Taxpayers with specific questions about their taxes can visit www.irs.gov/help-&-resources, or call or visit the local IRS or Arizona Department or Revenue offices. The Tucson IRS Office will take appointments to provide face-to-face services.
IRS - Tucson Office
300 W Congress, 85701
(520) 205-5008 - automated assistance
(844) 545-5640 - appointment scheduling
Monday - Friday 8:30AM - 4:30PM
Arizona Department of Revenue - Tucson Office
400 W Congress, 85701
8:00AM - 5:00PM
What are ACA exemptions, and how can I claim one?
There are no longer exemptions for tax year, 2019. Exemptions and coverage mandates may still apply to prior year returns. Coverage exemptions excuse taxpayers, or members of their household, who were uninsured during the tax year from the Individual Shared Responsibility Payment (or "penalty"). There are two types of exemptions – one is claimed on the tax return, the other is granted through the Marketplace. Exemptions claimed on the tax return do not require an application, but those granted through the Marketplace do.
To view a full list of exemptions, visit irs.gov.
What is the Affordable Care Act, and how does it affect me?
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a federal law signed by the President in 2010. The law expands access to health insurance and creates a requirement to maintain coverage. As of tax year 2019, there is no longer a federal penalty for being uninsured. Beginning in 2015, taxpayers will be responsible for the following during tax time:
- Reporting health coverage, or lack of coverage, for all members of the household
- Determining if a state penalty applies if taxpayer is uninsured (AZ does not have a penalty)
- Reconciling Advance Premium Tax Credits (APTC)
- Claiming Premium Tax Credits (PTC) not claimed in advance
When having your taxes prepared, you may need to bring additional documentation to aid in the preparation of your return. VITA assists taxpayers with all tax time responsibilities related to the Affordable Care Act at no cost.
I filed my taxes but still haven’t received my federal refund.
Use the IRS Where’s My Refund? page to check the status of your federal refund. To check, you will need your social security number or ITIN, your filing status (ex. single, married filing jointly, etc.), and your exact refund amount – the amount of money that your tax preparer or tax software told you to expect.