The Southwest Missouri Office on Aging (SWMOA) in partnership with the IRS will offer free tax assistance at area senior centers beginning Tuesday, Feb. 1.
The Tax Counseling for Elderly (TCE) Program provides free help to people age 60 and older across 17 counties in southwest Missouri.
"This program helps to empower seniors in their communities," said Michelle Hudson, financial projects coordinator. "It provides a service that not only saves the senior money but in most cases gets money back for them."
Volunteer tax preparers will offer assistance in completing state and federal tax forms. Assistance will also be provided to help seniors who do not need to file returns, but qualify for a Missouri rebate on rent expenses, real estate taxes or nursing home expenses.
Seniors interested in receiving assistance with tax form completion should bring the following paperwork to the tax site:
* Valid photo identification and Social Security card.
* The previous year's tax return if it is available.
* A cancelled check or bank document that displays the account and routing numbers if the individual is interested in using direct deposit.
* All income statements, including 1099 Social Security statements, pension and retirement fund statements, interest dividends and W2s.
* Paid real estate property tax receipt or a statement of rent for the previous year with the landlord's signature and Social Security number or Employer Identification Number.
* Child or dependent care expenses, including the total charges for the year and the care providers name, address and identifying number.
* Proof of all deductible expenses that will be itemized.
* A 2008 tax return if first-time homebuyers was claimed in 2008.
Tax counselors will determine if seniors are eligible for the Missouri Property Tax Credit (PTC) rebate, which takes into consideration real estate property tax, rent, mobile home lot rental, personal property tax on mobile homes and nursing home costs paid from personal resources.
Applicants must have been 65 years or older by Dec. 31, 2011, and a Missouri resident for the entire year of 2011 in order to qualify for the PTC rebate. Individuals receiving surviving spouse Social Security benefits must be 60 or older or 100 percent disabled.
Individuals who apply for PTC will also need Form 948, available through the Barry County Assessor's office, which shows the homestead portion of the senior's land if they live on more than five acres or own a mobile home, and a documentation of disability status if they are a 100 percent disabled veteran or otherwise qualified as disabled.
Trained volunteers also offer assistance to low-income individuals through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.
The TCE and VITA programs will operate from Feb. 1 through April 13.
Tax assistance will be available at the Central Crossing Senior Center in Shell Knob from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Wednesday, and the Cassville Senior Center from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Friday.
Services will also be offered at the Monett Senior Center from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Thursday.
Last year, volunteers served over 49,000 individuals, e-filed over 7,200 federal tax returns and prepared over 8,200 Missouri property tax or rent rebate forms. These services saved seniors and low-income individuals over $1.8 million in filing fees.
Homebound seniors are invited to schedule a free in-home consultation with a volunteer tax counselor.
For more information, call the Cassville Senior Center at 847-4510, the Central Crossing Senior Center at 417-858-6952, the Monett Senior Center at 417-235-3285 or Hudson at 417-868-9599 or 1-800-497-0822 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.