Questions & Answers

Many questions about the VITA tax program are answered here.


    How much does it cost?

    VITA provides tax preparation and e-filing at no charge, for taxpayers who fall within the income limitations (see the main page for this year’s income limits).

    How long will it take to get my taxes done?

    The time it takes to prepare a return varies depending on how complex the return is, and how many W-2s or other tax documents are needed to complete the return. If the VITA site you go to does not take appointments, you may also have to wait to get in to see a tax preparer depending on how busy the site it. At peak times, it is not unusual for a walk-in site to have waiting times of an hour or more. Contact your local site to find out when is the best time to arrive to minimize your wait.

    Can I make an appointment?

    This varies from site to site. The locations map on this website should indicate whether a site is walk-in only, or takes appointments.

    What types of returns can a VITA site prepare?

    All VITA sites can prepare basic tax returns, with these forms:

    • Forms 1040 (including 1040-EZ and 1040-A) – Federal Tax Return
    • Schedule A – Itemized Deductions
    • Schedule B – Interest and Dividends
    • Schedule C-EZ – Business Expenses, with $5,000 or less in expenses to report (no losses)
    • Simple Schedule D – Capital Gains and Losses where the cost basis is provided on form 1099-B
    • Simple Schedule E for Royalties or income reported on Schedule K-1
    • Schedule EIC – Earned Income Credit
    • Schedule SE – Self Employment Tax
    • Form 2441 – Child Care Expenses
    • Form 8863 – Education Credits
    • Form 104 – Colorado Tax Return

    Some VITA sites can also prepare international or military returns. 

    More complex returns CANNOT be prepared at a VITA site. 
    This includes returns with the following forms:

    • Schedule C – Business Expenses with:
      • An overall loss to report
      • More than $5,000 in expenses to deduct
      • Deductions for depreciation
      • Deductions for business use of the home
    • Complex Schedule D – Capital Gains and Losses
    • Schedule E – Rental Income
    • Other forms for complex tax concerns

    Contact your local site if you are not sure whether your return qualifies.

    There are several “types” of VITA/TCE sites. Which one is best for me?

    All sites are staffed with trained and certified tax preparation volunteers. Each of these sites can help taxpayers with low- to moderate-income who qualify for this service. The difference between site types lies in what segment of the population they specialize in. See the IRS website for more information.

    Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA)
    The VITA Program offers free tax help to low- to moderate-income people who cannot prepare their own tax returns. Certified volunteers receive training to help prepare basic tax returns in communities across the country. Most locations offer free electronic filing.

    Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE)
    The TCE Program provides free tax help to people aged 60 and older. Trained and certified volunteers from non-profit organizations provide free tax counseling and basic income tax return preparation for senior citizens. Volunteers who provide tax counseling are often retired individuals associated with non-profit organizations that receive grants from the IRS.

    AARP Tax-Aide
    As part of the IRS-sponsored TCE Program, AARP offers the Tax-Aide counseling program at many sites during the filing season. Trained and certified AARP Tax-Aide volunteer counselors help people of low-to-middle income with special attention to those age 60 and older.

    For more information on TCE, call 1-800-829-1040. To locate the nearest AARP Tax-Aide site, call 1-888-227-7669 or visit AARP’s website.

    Virtual VITA
    Virtual VITA uses technology to connect taxpayers with a remote certified volunteer. The taxpayer visits an intake site where a volunteer helps to collect all of the required information and transmit it to a remote site for preparation. The remote tax preparer will set up a time to discuss the return over the phone with the taxpayer, to answer any questions that arise. The taxpayer then returns 1-2 weeks later to sign their prepared tax return so it can be e-filed.

    My Free TaxesFacilitated Self Assistance (FSA)
    FSA lets you prepare your own return online with telephone assistance from VITA/TCE certified tax preparation volunteers as needed. This service also includes free e-filing. Visit My Free Taxes to get started.

    What is e-filing?

    eFile image
E-filing, or Electronic Filing, is transmitting your return directly to the IRS via computer.  This allows your return to get to the IRS faster, so it can be processed sooner.  It also saves postage, since you do not need to mail in a paper copy of your return.

    Can I get an instant refund?

    VITA sites do not offer instant refunds. Instant refunds are a bad idea, that cost you a lot of money. Instant refunds are designed to take advantage of taxpayers who are strapped for cash. Also called Refund Anticipation Loans, these do not provide instant payment of your full tax refund. Instead, they are loaning you your own money, at a very high interest rate. Not only will you pay to have your return prepared, there are additional fees for e-filing, and fees and interest charged for the “privilege” of borrowing your own money. Often, you will be charged an additional fee when you cash the check that you receive. In most cases, you will spend hundreds of dollars to receive your refund only 7-10 days faster than if you went to a VITA site and had your return e-filed and deposited directly into your bank account.

    Can I invest part of my refund in a Savings Bond?

    Yes, sites can prepare the necessary forms to have all or part of your refund used to purchase a low-risk Savings Bond which will earn interest. Guidelines for purchasing Savings Bonds with your refund:

    • Bonds purchased are U.S. Series I Savings Bonds
    • The composite interest rate consists of a fixed rate and an inflation-based rate. The inflation-based rate is adjusted twice a year, on May 1 and November 1.
    • Up to $5,000 of your refund can be used to purchase Savings Bonds
    • Savings Bonds must be purchased in $50 increments
    • Savings Bonds can be purchased for yourself and up to two other individuals
    • The Savings Bond(s) will be mailed to the taxpayer, or to the person designated on the form

    Ask your VITA volunteer for more details on the advantages of using your refund to purchase a Savings Bond.

    What identification should I bring?

    You will need to bring a photo ID, as well as Social Security Cards or ITINs for yourself, your spouse, and any dependents.

    You must have either a Social Security Card, a Social Security Statement (form SSA-1099), or original ITIN paperwork for everyone listed on the return – it is not sufficient to know the number. This is true even if you go back to the same site where you previously had your return prepared. Identity theft has been rising in recent years, so VITA and TCE sites are required to verify photo identification, and to use numbers from original Social Security/ITIN documents, every year for every return preprared.

    Click here for a full list of the paperwork you will need to bring with you.

    What if I don’t have a Social Security Number?

    You must apply for an ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number) if you are not eligible for a Social Security Number, but you are required to file a federal income tax return. If you have an ITIN, make sure you bring the original ITIN paperwork, showing your ITIN number, with you to the site. If you do not have an ITIN, we can help you apply for one when we prepare your return. However, we will not be able to e-file your tax return; you will need to send it in along with your ITIN application.

    Click here for more information on how to get an ITIN.

    How long will it take to get my refund?

    If you are having your refund direct-deposited, it should appear in your bank account 7-14 days after your return is e-filed and accepted.

    If you are receiving your refund by check, it will be mailed by the IRS 14-21 days after your return is e-filed and accepted. Allow a few more days for the mail system to get the check to you.

    How can I track my refund?

    Where's my refund imageTo check on the status of your federal refund, you can either track your refund online or call 1-800-829-1954. With either method, you will need to provide your Social Security or ITIN Number, filing status, and the amount of your refund (all of this is on your copy of your tax return). Information on your refund will not be available for 7-10 business days after your return is filed.

    To check on the status of your Colorado state refund, call 303-238-7378.

    Can I have my refund directly deposited?

    Yes – in fact, we encourage direct deposit. Direct deposit is safer and faster than having a paper check mailed to you. All you need to provide is your bank account number, and the routing number (which tells the IRS which bank to send the money to). Both of these will appear at the bottom of one of your checks, if you have a checking account. If you are using a savings account, contact your bank to find out what the routing number is.

    Can you prepare a Colorado state return?

    Yes, we can prepare and e-file both your federal tax return, and your Colorado state return.

    Can I get a tax return prepared for another state?

    The complexity of returns varies widely from state to state. Contact your local VITA site to inquire about their ability to prepare a return for a state other than Colorado.

    Can I get help with a return for a prior tax year?

    This varies from site to site. Please contact your local site for details on whether they can prepare prior-year returns. Current year returns will generally take precedence over prior-year returns, so this service may not be available during peak times.

    If I owe money on my tax return, do I have to pay it immediately?

    If you owe money, we will still e-file your return on the day you come in, but you have until April 15th to make your payment. There are several ways you can make payment:

    • You can have the amount due withdrawn directly from your bank account on the date you choose (on or before April 15th). This is the easiest, but you must make sure that the full amount due is available in your bank account when it will be withdrawn. Otherwise, you will be charged by both the IRS and your bank for insufficient funds.
    • You can mail in your payment. If you choose this, the VITA site will provide you with payment vouchers that you must include when you mail in your payment. These vouchers make sure that your payment is credited to the correct return. Don’t forget to have your payment postmarked by April 15th, or you will incur late payment fees and interest.
    • You can make payment by a credit or debit card, either by phone or over the internet. Note that there is generally a fee for paying by debit or credit card. This is a small fixed fee if using a debit card. If paying by credit card, the fee will be a percentage of the total tax due. See the IRS website for more information on credit and debit card payments.
    • If you cannot pay the full amount by the due date, you can set up an installment payment plan with the IRS. This is generally an expensive option, as there is a setup fee, possibly late payment penalties, and you will also be charged interest on the amount that is past due.

    What if I owe money on my tax return, but I can’t afford to pay it?

    If you owe money on your tax return but can’t afford to pay it, it is still important that you file your tax return by April 15th. You can be fined by the IRS if you do not file your tax return on time. If you cannot pay the full amount due, you can request to set up an installment payment plan with the IRS. An installment plan may seem very convenient, but it is also an expensive option. There is a one-time setup fee, and you will also be charged a late payment penalty and interest on the amount due while you are making payments. It is always best to pay as much as you can by April 15th, even if you cannot pay the full amount. You may also want to consider less expensive alternatives, such as a bank loan.

    There are several ways to set up an installment agreement with the IRS:

    • You can fill out Form 9465 to request an installment agreement. We can assist you with filling out the form, but it will need to be mailed in by you.
    • You can call 1-800-829-1040, and the IRS will help you in setting up a payment plan. You should call as soon as possible after you have filed your tax return. Tell them that you have already filed your taxes, and make sure you have a copy of your return with you when you call so you know how much you owe. If you are planning to make a partial payment by April 15th, let them know that as well.

    If you also need payment options for an amount due on your Colorado state return, call the Colorado Department of Revenue at 303-238-7378 after you have worked with the IRS on your federal payment plan.

    Don’t I get longer to pay if I file an extension?

    NO!

    Filing an extension does not give you more time to pay your taxes; it gives you more time to submit your completed tax return. If you owe money when you submit your completed tax return, the IRS will add penalties and interest for any amount that was not paid by April 15th – even if you have filed an extension. If you are going to owe money, you should submit a payment with your request for an extension to avoid being penalized for late payment and minimize any interest due.

    What does VITA do with my personal information? Is it safe?

    All volunteers are required to sign a confidentiality agreement, and conform to specific standards of conduct and privacy guidelines. Your personal information will not be shared or discussed outside of the VITA site. At the end of the tax year, we remove all electronic returns from our computers as well, so you information is not retained there.

    I received a letter from the IRS after filing my taxes; what happened?

    When your taxes are e-filed, the IRS computer systems do a quick verification to make sure the basic information matches their records (for example, birth dates and Social Security Numbers). After the return has been accepted, it will be reviewed further by the IRS. If the IRS feels that something is missing or incorrect, they will adjust the return and send you a letter explaining what they did, and why. If the adjustments they made result in your owing additional taxes, the letter will indicate the amount due. If the adjustments result in your owing less money, they will send you a check for the amount they owe you. In most cases, the letter will also include information on how to dispute the changes they made.

    I received a letter from the IRS after filing my taxes; what do I do?

    If you received a letter from the IRS because they corrected your return after it was filed, you should follow the instructions provided with the letter. If you disagree with the changes made by the IRS, you can dispute the changes by providing additional information to show why their changes are incorrect. Instructions for disputing the changes should be provided in the letter.

    If you do not understand why the changes were made, you should contact the IRS for clarification. If the VITA site that prepared your return is open year-round, they may be able to assist with explaining the changes, and possibly with filing an amended return if required. For more complicated changes – or if the site that prepared your taxes is closed for the season – you should contact the IRS for assistance. The letter you received should contain information on who to contact.

    VITA sites are not authorized to assist with tax disputes or audits. If you need professional assistance, there are several Low Income Taxpayer Clinics (LITCs) in Colorado that will represent low-income taxpayers in audits, appeals, and collection issues. More information on LITCs and whether you qualify can be found on the IRS website.

    The IRS also has a Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS). If you have tried to resolve your tax problem through normal IRS channels and have not gotten to resolution, TAS pay be able to help. More information on TAS can be found on the IRS website.