Friday, April 25, 2008

How to determine Low-Income Tax Returns?

IRS Tax Attorney - - Presented by Alvin Brown and Associates

After getting conflicting information on how much income is low-income for VITA purposes, it is enlightening to note that there is a definition proposed to congress to define what is the definition of a program assisting low-income taxpayers.

"(B) Assistance to low-income taxpayers. --For purposes of subparagraph (A), a
program is treated as assisting low-income taxpayers if at least 90 percent of
the taxpayers assisted by the program have incomes which do not exceed 250
percent of the poverty level, as determined in accordance with criteria
established by the Director of the Office of Management and Budget."

It does suggest that in order to meet the goals of the program, VITA as a whole, and possibly within individual sites, should ensure that at least 90% of the taxpayers they assist should have incomes below some level. Another way to look at it is to count how many returns have AGIs that do not exceed 250 percent of poverty level, and make sure that these make up at least more than 90% of the returns.

The poverty level definition changes from year to year, but the official word from the Department of Health and Human services for the years 2007 - 2008 is

We can see that 250% of Income Level depends on Filing Status and number of dependents, and for 2008 for a Single the limit would be $26,000, for MFJ the limit would be $35,000 and for a family of four it would be $53,000.

Monday, April 21, 2008

How, When and How Much Tax Rebate will I get?

The Economic Stimulus Tax Rebates will start trasmitting on May 2, 2008 for direct deposit, and on May 16, 2008 for paper checks. The schedule is given for 2007 Income Tax Returns filed on or before April 15, 2008

Where to find information on becoming a VITA Volunteer?

There are different ways to offer your services as a VITA volunteer. The IRS's main toll-free number 1-800-829-1040 offers help and may direct you to the right person. In many parts of the U.S., organizations at state, county or city programs recruit and train the volunteers, usually with the help and blessing of the IRS and the State Income Tax Authorities.

To avoid hunting for information on the telephone, one good way is to look for web sites using your favorite search engine. Doing so provides an abundance of riches.

Another alternative is to visit There is is possible to sign yourself up with a Yahoo!Group that periodically sends out announcements about when training starts so that you may be reminded when to officially register. Since the group is an announcement only group that only asks for an email address that you check periodically, there is little worry about being spammed by signing up for the group since it is managed by a respected well-known company. The site also has a custom search engine on the front page which draws on a smaller set of websites for its information, and provides a less abundant set of riches.

Who is this site for?

The original audience for the website was a small group of active VITA volunteers in Santa Clara County. Set up originally to act as an announcement page from the IRS VITA Coordinator, its scope expanded to taking online registrations of interested volunteers and site preferences, and emailing the information to the IRS VITA Coordinator.

Since there was a registration page, potential volunteers from all over the United States registered to get more information about the program, contact information, etc which was not available to the webmaster. So a separate page was set up for non-Santa Clara County volunteers, and enquiries forwarded to the IRS. Visitor traffic to the site increased, and the cities from which volunteers signed up is shown on the home page of the site.

The information turned out also to be relevant t0 visitors not interested in volunteering, but in using the services provided by the volunteers. Others had simple questions and requests for forms, all of which the webmaster could not answer individually, so the vita-information Yahoo!Group was set up as an announcement group to which people could subscribe.

On VITA and Volunteers

From the website .....

"Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) volunteers provide FREE Income Tax Preparation Assistance to low-Income, elderly, disabled and limited English speaking people. Volunteers get FREE training and certification by the IRS"......

Training in Tax Law relevant to the clients who are served by VITA sites is provided in classrooms and online. There is abundant reference material provided that it is possible to self-study, but it is generally helpful in understanding and absorbing the material in the classroom because of the discussion and exchange of ideas. The end goal of the training is to pass an untimed open book exam based on the training material. The exam can be taken online through the web, or in the classroom where the test is included as part of training material. If a passing grade is not achieved the first time, there is the opportunity to take a retest. It is not clear how to get certified if a volunteer does not get the passing grade. However, with a little bit of thought and some resourcefulness, the determined volunteer can generally get certified quite easily even after not making it in two attempts.