With the upcoming tax deadline blowing in on the fresh April wind, Americans are turning their attention to meticulous preparation. While very few people enjoy the rigor and stress of filing taxes, for some seniors, tax time can be as frustrating as it is impenetrable. Fortunately, there are several senior-specific services and benefits you can take advantage of, so even if you aren't an accountant you won't find the whole process too taxing.
Make sure filing is necessary
If you're lucky, you may find that with just a little research you don't even have to worry about filing your taxes. According to TopRetirements.com, some states do not charge income tax, and most do not tax social security earnings. This means that unless you own property or a similar major asset, or you made a major purchase last year, you may be able to avoid preparing a tax return altogether.
Know which benefits you qualify for
If you do find yourself having to file taxes, don't fret. There are several benefits that seniors can profit from. The IRS website lists instructions and guidelines for applying for the Tax Credit for the Elderly or Disabled, which you may qualify for if you're over 65, or even if you're under 65 but are living with a permanent disability. In addition to this specific benefit, many seniors are also eligible to claim a larger deduction, DailyFinance.com reported. For people over 65, the standard deduction was $1,100 higher than it was for non-seniors in 2009.
Seniors providing significant support for their extended family may also be able to claim some of them as dependents. Even if you provide financial support for grandchildren for things like school, that may be sufficient to allow you to claim some dependent deductions.
Take advantage of free help
There's no doubt about the fact that filing your taxes can be difficult and arduous. Even if you keep fastidious records of your expenses and feel you have a good handle on which additional benefits you may be eligible for, the ever-changing Tax Code may make navigating the sea of fine print difficult and unwelcoming.
If you're feeling overwhelmed by the stress of tax preparation, there are those out there who offer help specifically geared toward seniors filing taxes. The IRS-hosted Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program offers tax preparation help to low-income households, people with disabilities and seniors. As the name suggests, the VITA program operates on a volunteer basis and is free of charge to those who qualify. The IRS has a convenient link for finding nearby centers on its website.
The AARP also offers a tax filing assistance service, and it is also free for low- to moderate-income households. Their Tax-Aide program is staffed by volunteers who work to help you find deductions and credits you may be qualified for, as well as make sure that you file all your forms correctly and without stress.