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Welcome to Colorado VITA

VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) and TCE (Tax Counseling for the Elderly) provide FREE, CONFIDENTIAL, and SECURE preparation and e-filing of Federal and State income taxes, for taxpayers who qualify. This service is available for basic returns with income up to $56,000.

And, YES, it really is free for qualifying taxpayers.  No strings attached.

Read more about the VITA program.

What We Can Do

Forms VITA/TCE CAN  prepare

What to Expect

How long it takes and how it works

What to Bring

What to bring when visiting  VITA/TCE

Locations Near You

Find a VITA/TCE location near you

Questions and Answers

Answers to many questions

Volunteer with VITA

Get details here

What we can do 

All VITA/TCE sites can prepare basic tax returns with the following types of income, expenses, or credits:

  • Wages and salaries (reported on form W-2)

  • Self-employment income (cash payments and those reported on form 1099-MISC) - scope is limited

  • Unemployment benefits (reported on form 1099-G)

  • State income tax refunds (reported on form 1099-G)

  • Social security and retirement income (reported on forms SSA-1099, RRB-1099, CSA-1099, 1099-R)

  • Interest and dividends (reported on forms 1099-INT, 1099-DIV, or 1099-B)

  • Capital gains and losses if the cost basis is known (reported on form 1099-B)

  • Gambling winnings (form W-2G)

  • Oil and gas royalties - not available at all sites

  • Schedule K-1 income (reported on forms 1065, 1120S, and 1041) - scope is limited

  • Alimony paid or received (only relevant for divorces finalized prior to January 1, 2019)

  • Estimated tax payments made

  • Sale of home (reported on form 1099-S) - scope is limited

  • Cancellation of debt (reported on form 1099-C) - scope is limited

  • Itemized deductions (mortgage interest, charitable contributions, medical expenses, etc.)

  • Health Savings Accounts (reported on form 1099-SA)

  • Earned Income Credit (EIC), education credits, child tax credit, child care expense credits

  • Reconciliation of Premium Tax Credit (reported on form 1095-A)

Some VITA sites can also prepare international, foreign student, or military returns.

What we cannot do 

VITA/TCE sites cannot prepare complicated returns, including those with:

  • Self-employment income with an overall loss to report, more than $25,000 in expenses, or deductions for depreciation or business use of the home

  • Complex capital gains or losses, or when the cost basis is not reported

  • Rental income and expenses - sites certified for military returns can do these for military personnel only

  • Other forms for complex tax concerns

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

What to expect when visiting a VITA/TCE site

Some sites take appointments, and others operate on a walk-in basis only.

  • If you have an appointment at a site, be on time (or a little early). If you are unable to make your appointment, contact the site to let them know as early as possible. Sites that take appointments fill up quickly, and are often fully booked. If you are late for an appointment, the site may not be able to take you when you arrive, and may not be able to schedule an alternate time for you.

  • Walk-in sites operate on a first-come, first-served basis and will have a waiting list if all the volunteers are busy with other taxpayers. Wait times at walk-in sites can be lengthy, especially at peak times. Contact your local site for information on the best time to arrive to minimize your wait.

Whether a site takes appointments or walk-ins, the basic process will be the same:

  1. First, you will be asked to complete an Intake and Interview sheet. The information on this sheet gives the preparer information required to complete your return, and also helps them ensure that your return falls within the scope of VITA/TCE. This form should be filled out completely and accurately to ensure that your return is prepared correctly.

  2. You will sit with the volunteer while they prepare your return so you can answer any questions they have. This also gives you the opportunity to ask questions about your return. 

  3. After your return is completed, it goes through a Quality Review process. This helps to ensure that the return is error-free when it is filed. If the site is busy, you may have to wait until a Quality Reviewer is available.

  4. Once your return has been reviewed, a volunteer will go over your Federal and State returns with you, and give you copies. At this time, you have a final opportunity to ask questions regarding your return before signing an authorization form that allows the site to e-file your return for you. By signing the authorization form, you are attesting that you are responsible for your tax return and all the information on it, and that you agree with the return that has been prepared for you.  At this point, you are finished at the site.

  5. After your return is e-filed, it will be processed by the IRS computers. If there are any errors when the file is processed – such as a misspelled name – the site coordinator will contact you to resolve the error, and then re-file the return.

What to bring with you.

When visiting a VITA site, bring the following with you.  Skip items that don’t apply.

Both the taxpayer and the spouse must present a current (not expired) government-issued photo ID. This can be a driver's license, a state ID card, a passport, or other government-issued ID that includes your photo. We will not prepare your return without seeing a valid photo ID, even if we have done your return in previous years. It may seem bureaucratic, but it protects you from fraud (which, unfortunately, is more common every year).

You must bring your Social Security Cards, ITIN paperwork, or your Social Security Statement (form SSA-1099) for yourself, your spouse, and any dependents you will be claiming on your return. VITA sites are not allowed to use memorized numbers, or numbers off other tax documents, even if you had your tax return prepared at the same site in previous years. This might seem inconvenient, but it is your defense against identity theft.

If you are filing a married filing joint return, both spouses must be present to sign the required forms.

Birth dates for yourself, your spouse, and any dependents you will be claiming on your return.

Bring your last year's State and Federal return if you have them. We don't always need them but sometimes they speed things up.

The fastest and most secure way to receive your refund is through direct deposit. To use direct deposit, you must have your bank routing transit number and account number. A voided check will have this information, or you can get the information from your bank.

Bring all your wage and earnings statements for both you and your spouse. This includes forms W-2, W-2G, and all types of 1099 such as SSA-1099 or 1099-R. Most of these forms are required to be mailed to you by January 31st, though some forms 1099 may arrive later. Make sure you have ALL of your forms before filing your taxes.

The amount of any tip income you received.

If you purchased health insurance through the Federal or Colorado State marketplace (healthcare.gov) you should have received a 1095-A which details your plan.

If you paid home mortgage interest, property taxes or any other real estate taxes you should receive a 1098. If you had educational expenses for college or other tuition you should have received a Form 1098-E or 1098-T.

If you made a contribution to your Roth or Traditional IRA, bring information on the amount paid.

The total amount you have paid for day care for your children or dependents, and the day care provider’s tax identifying number (the provider’s Social Security Number, or their business Employer Identification Number.)

If you are self-employed, bring receipts for business expenses. If you receive a form 1099-MISC you are considered to be self-employed..

Qualified educator expenses paid by teachers.

If you received a first-time home buyer’s credit for a home purchased in 2008, bring information on the purchase date of the home, the amount of credit you received, and how much of it you have repaid since then.

Bring any information on any foreclosure or debt forgiveness.

If you installed renewable energy equipment, or made qualified energy efficient improvements on your home, you may be eligible for a tax credit. Bring receipts for the purchase and installation of such items.

If you will itemize deductions this year, bring supporting documentation for expenses that can be itemized.  

The standard deduction for 2019 is $12,200 for single filers, or $24,400 for joint filers. You do not need to itemize unless the total of all your deductible items exceeds the amount of your standard deduction.

Deductible items include:

Generally reported on Form 1098.

May be included on Form 1098. Dont’t forget to include any other real estate taxes.

Annual car registration fees may be deductible under certain circumstances.

Bring paperwork showing the amounts donated to qualified charitable organizations (such as donations to your church, or donations taken to the Salvation Army, etc.)

Bring receipts for any medical or dental expenses you paid that were not reimbursed by your health insurance. This includes premiums for medical and dental insurance that are paid by you (amounts paid by your employer do not qualify). Only the amount that is over 10% of your income is considered deductible.

If you had gambling losses as well as gambling winning you can claim the losses up to the amount of gambling winnings received. Bring any documents or reports that the casino gave you.

Find a VITA/TCE site near you

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.

These links will take you to the VITA location databases hosted by the IRS and AARP Tax Aide websites, respectively. The IRS and AARP publish current lists as soon as they are available; typically in the 2nd half of January. Each site is independently operated, with their own dates and hours which may change from year to year. Be sure to check local site listings for current information.

You can also call the United Way by dialing 2-1-1 to find a location near you.

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Different sites offer different services.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)

The VITA Program offers free tax help for taxpayers making $56,000 or less. 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) — AARP Tax-Aide

The TCE Program provides free tax help to all taxpayers, particularly those aged 60 and older. Trained and certified volunteers specialize in questions about pensions and retirement-related issues unique to seniors.

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.

Facilitated Self Assistance (FSA)

Facilitated Self Assistance lets taxpayers prepare their own income tax returns using IRS-certified software with help from VITA/TCE tax preparation volunteers.  Not all VITA/TCE sites offer FSA.

Some FSA sites have their own computers with IRS-certified tax prep software for clients to use, while VITA/TCE volunteers provide coaching or assistance as needed to work through the process.

Remote FSA allows taxpayers to use their own computer with internet access to use free online IRS-certified software to prepare their tax returns.  VITA/TCE support is available via phone, email or chat.  

MyFreeTaxes is an excellent IRS-certified Remote FSA website that allows you to prepare and e-file your own income taxes, both Federal and State — all at no cost.

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PLEASE NOTE:
Colorado VITA does not have any control over the information found in the Location Databases referenced here. Colorado VITA is not responsible for any inaccuracies in the Locatation Databases. If you are a VITA site coordinator and want to make changes, you must contact your IRS SPEC representative.

PLEASE NOTE:
Colorado VITA does not have any control over the information found in the Location Databases referenced here. Colorado VITA is not responsible for any inaccuracies in the Locatation Databases. If you are a VITA site coordinator and want to make changes, you must contact your IRS SPEC representative.

Questions and Answers

Many questions about the VITA program are answered here.

VITA and TCE provide 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).

Starting in 2019, there is no longer a Shared Responsibility Payment for taxpayers who do not have healh insurance. If you purchased health insurance through the marketplace, you may be eligible for a Premium Tax Credit (PTC).  Bring your form 1095-A to the site to reconcile the PTC.

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

See the What we can do section for details of what types of returns VITA/TCE sites can prepare.

See the Locations section for descriptions of the different types of VITA/TCE sites available.


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 is also more secure than sending your return through the mail.

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.

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.

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

You must 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.

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.

To obtain an ITIN:

  1. Prepare a federal tax return, but leave the Social Security Number information blank. If your spouse or any dependents have a valid Social Security Number, include those on the tax return.

  2. Fill out an application for an ITIN (Form W-7). The VITA site can print one out for you.

  3. Mail in your ITIN application with your federal tax return attached, and also include the required documents for proof of identity and foreign status (see below). 

The instructions for form W-7 include information on supporting documents that you must send in with your application. and the address where your application should be mailed.  You can also bring your application and documents in person to a designated IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center (TAC).

 If you are having your refund direct-deposited, it should appear in your bank account 7-14 days after your return has been 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.

To check on the status of your Federal refund, visit Check My Refund Status  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. 

Check the status of your Colorado State refund here.

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.

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

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.

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.

VITA and TCE sites can help you prepare an amended return.  You will need to bring a copy of the original return that was filed, as well as documents to support any changes.  Current year returns will generally take precedence over amended returns, so this service might not be available during peak times.

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. Even if you can’t pay the full amount by April 15, it is still important to file your taxes by the deadline to avoid penalties for late filing.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

If you received a letter from the IRS, 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 do not assist with tax disputes or audits.

If you need professional assistance, there are Low Income Taxpayer Clinics (LITCs) in Colorado that will represent low-income taxpayers in audits, appeals, and collection issues.

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.

VITA sites do not assist with tax disputes or audits.

If you need professional assistance, there are Low Income Taxpayer Clinics (LITCs) in Colorado that will represent low-income taxpayers in audits, appeals, and collection issues.

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.

Volunteer with VITA

VITA sites within the state of Colorado generally recruit volunteers during the months of October through December to help prepare for the following tax year, which starts at the end of January or the first week of February.

About Volunteering with VITA

No prior tax preparation experience is necessary, and there are volunteer opportunities that don’t actually involve preparing taxes. VITA provides free training to ensure your success.

There are locations throughout Colorado with varying days and hours of operation. Typically, the tax season is between the last week in January through April 15.

What VITA Volunteers Do

Below lists volunteer opportunities with VITA. Each volunteer will receive proper training/certification in their chosen role (except where noted). Depending on the size of the location and how busy it is, volunteer needs vary. Sometimes volunteers will be asked to perform multiple roles. For instance, a smaller location might ask the tax preparer to greet and sign-in clients before preparing their taxes. Keep in mind you will not be asked to volunteer in any capacity you find uncomfortable or are not trained/certified for.

Bilingual skills are not required for any position, but are desirable in certain areas.

Tax Preparers

Tax Preparers prepare tax returns for low- to-moderate income taxpayers with basic returns. They work one-on-one with individuals and families using intake forms and computer software to electronically file accurate tax returns.

No prior tax preparation experience is required.

Tax Preparers work one-on-one with clients, spending time with each taxpayer to ensure they receive all credits and tax benefits they are eligible for. They must be comfortable with computers, have a strong attention to detail, customer service skills, and the patience to understand and answer tax questions. 

Greeters

Greeters welcome clients and orient them to the process. Some Greeters perform an initial screening for eligibility and help clients start their paperwork. This role includes opportunities to assist with administrative tasks, such as filing and mailings. Knowledge of the tax law is not required.

Greeters are outgoing, organized, and can deal effectively with interruptions and competing tasks. They have excellent customer service skills, and like to interact with many different types of people. They can manage a crowd and remain calm while still being organized. 

Site Coordinators

Site Coordinators ensure the smooth running of a VITA site. They coordinate with the IRS and ensure all volunteers are appropriately certified. Site coordinators prepare the site before the beginning of the year, help find resources for the site, and make sure the site is properly closed at the end of the season.

Many site coordinators are certified tax preparers, though that is not required.

Site Coordinators like to make sure things run smoothly. They are organized, have a great attention to detail, and are and able to remain calm under pressure. They have leadership skills, and prefer to have a management role working with volunteers and clients than working with one client at a time.

Volunteer training

Volunteer tax preparers receive extensive training and are required to pass a certification exam before they can prepare taxes. The primary training is self-paced online training. Instructor-led training may be available depending on the site and location. Tax preparers also receive training on the tax preparation software used to prepare taxes.

Training generally takes place in December and January, with training materials available as early as mid-November.

How to get started

For more information about becoming a volunteer, please visit VITA/TCE Volunteer and Partner Signup  Fill out the form and, once submitted, you will be contacted by an appropriate volunteer coordinator from the area you are interested in. Inquiring about volunteering is not committing to volunteering! It will simply pair you up with a site coordinator who can provide more information, and help get you started if you decide to volunteer.

If you have questions. please email us at coloradovita@gmail.org.