Disability.gov; By Guest Blogger Kathy Davis, a Lead Senior Communications Specialist in the Wage and Investment Division of the Internal Revenue Service
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) understands the growing need to ensure individuals with disabilities receive equal access to tax assistance and financial education information. We have established guidance, programs and policies to support taxpayers with disabilities, as we are aware that they face unique challenges when attempting to meet tax obligations.
To address these challenges, the IRS provides many services that help all taxpayers – and those with disabilities often find these services particularly helpful.
Free Tax Preparation Services:
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (VITA/TCE) programs offer free tax return preparation generally to people who make $53,000 or less. IRS-trained volunteers provide free service along with electronic filing to qualified taxpayers.
The IRS community partners host VITA/TCE tax return preparation sites across the country, helping those who cannot do their own returns or afford paid preparers. Last year, our VITA/TCE sites prepared more than 3.6 million tax returns. This resulted in nearly $4 billion in refunds. Taxpayers who took advantage of this free service also saved money in return preparation fees. More than 500,000 of the 3.6 million returns were prepared for people with disabilities.
To find nearby VITA or TCE locations, visit:www.irs.gov/Individuals/Free-Tax-Return-Preparation-for-You-by-Volunteers or use the Locator Tool. You can also call or download the IRS2Go App, which is available in English and Spanish. The app provides features to help taxpayers check on the status of their tax refunds, obtain tax records, find free tax preparation providers and stay connected with the IRS through social media channels like YouTube and Twitter. More than half of all visitors to the Where’s My Refund? page on IRS.gov were mobile users. iPhone and iTouch users can update or download the free IRS2Go app by visiting the iTunes App Store. Android users can visit Google Play to download the free IRS2Go app.
Important Tax Credits and Filing Tips:
There are several tax credits available to people with disabilities. The first is the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Last year, more than 27 million taxpayers received more than $65 billion. The average amount of the EITC paid out in 2013 was $2,335 and lifted an estimated 6.5 million people out of poverty, including 3.3 million children. Estimates show 20 percent of Americans who qualify for the credit do not claim it. Research also shows there are approximately 1.5 million people with disabilities who did not file a tax return, but may be eligible for this credit. Many of the people who do not file are below the income threshold that requires them to file a tax return; however, the only way to receive this credit is to file a federal tax return. You must have earned income to receive this credit. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are not considered earned income.
Child and Dependent Care Expenses are another tax credit often overlooked by people with disabilities. Many individuals and families use this credit when they have children under the age of 13 enrolled in a qualifying daycare or babysitter facility. However, if the person being cared for is physically or mentally unable to care for himself, which means the qualifying person cannot dress, clean or feed himself because of physical or mental disabilities, there is no age limitation as long as one spouse is working. Individuals who must have constant attention/care to prevent injury to themselves or others are also considered not able to care for themselves.
Individuals with disabilities are often concerned that a tax refund will impact their eligibility for one or more public benefits, including Social Security disability benefits, Medicaid and Food Stamps. The law is clear that tax refunds, including refunds from tax credits such as the EITC, shall not be taken into account as income for purposes of determining eligibility for benefits. Tax refunds and credits shall not count as resources for a period of 12 months from receipt of the refund. This applies to any federal program and/or any state or local program financed in whole or in part with federal funds.
The safest and fastest way anyone can get their tax refund is by filing electronically and choosing direct deposit. Refunds can be a great way to invest in your financial future. You can direct deposit your refund into one checking or savings account or split your refund into two or three checking or savings accounts and purchase U.S. Savings Bonds using Form 8888, Allocation of Refund (Including Savings Bond Purchases). Buying savings bonds with your refund is a great way to begin or increase your overall savings.
Resources Available on IRS.gov:
The IRS’ Alternative Media Center ensures the IRS adheres to laws designed to enhance access to government information by members of the disability community. The Alternative Media Center also works diligently to provide alternative media resources to customers with disabilities through the IRS.gov website.
Hundreds of accessible federal tax forms and publications are available for download from the IRS Accessibility page. Visit IRS.gov, select the “Forms & Pubs” tab and then the “Accessible” tab to access the accessible forms and publications. You can choose from large-print, text, accessible PDFs, e-Braille or HTML formats that are compatible with screen readers and refreshable Braille displays. The IRS also provides American Sign Language videos with the latest tax information. Publication 907, Tax Highlights for Persons with Disabilities, explains the tax implications of certain disability benefits and other issues.
About the Guest Blogger
Kathy Davis is an IRS lead senior communications specialist in the Wage and Investment Division. In this position, she is responsible for outreach communications to all individual taxpayers. One of her primary responsibilities is working closely with the staff that oversees and administers the free tax preparation programs known as VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) and TCE (Tax Counseling for the Elderly). She works to ensure the public is aware of these available services and what they have to offer. Kathy has been with the IRS for 30 years serving in various technical and non-technical positions.
For More on Disability Information, visit Disability.gov