This year, tax day is April 15. (That’s right: unlike the past two years, there’s no extension to the 2022 deadline to file your taxes.)
But if tax day surprises you, a great option might be to use the help of a free tax clinic to file your tax returns.
Across the Bay Area, dozens of nonprofits and Voluntary Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites are offering you free tax filing services — often until April 15. himself. Many of these sites also offer support in Spanish, Cantonese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, and other languages. Some also offer walk-in appointments. You can find free tax help near you on the United Way Bay Area map, or by calling 211.
But how can you be the best prepare declare your taxes before going to a tax clinic?
KQED contacted UC Hastings Low Income Clinic, UpValley Family Centers and Mission Economic Development Agency to ask what information they want their customers to know before using their services – and what misinformation is circulating about filing this year. Keep reading for their tips.
The last two weeks before April 15 tend to be the busiest time for free tax clinics, with many seeing up to hundreds of people each week.
For this reason, the tax assistance groups KQED has spoken to have emphasized how important it is for filers to have all ready in advance – to make the process as easy and quick as possible. So, a few days before your filing appointment, start collecting all your documents in a “filing kit”.
Make sure your kit includes the following:
Your photo ID
Your Social Security card or a letter from the Social Security Administration that verifies your SSN
- If you don’t have a Social Security number, bring your IRS-provided Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) instead. An ITIN is a number created by the IRS for taxpayers who do not have a Social Security number due to their immigration status.
- More information on how to request an ITIN.
The social security numbers and/or ITIN numbers of everyone you will be claiming in your taxes this year
Income tax forms from your employer such as W-2, 1099-MISC, 1099-NEC, or 1099-K
- If you applied for unemployment benefits in 2021, EDD should also have sent you a 1099-G form
Proof of healthcare coverage
- This will be a Form 1095-B or Form 1095-A if you are insured through covered California
- If you did not receive a Form 1095-B or 1095-A in the mail and you were enrolled in a health care plan in 2021, contact your health care provider or go to your health care account online to prepare it before visiting a tax clinic
Letters 6419 and 6475, if you received them from the IRS.
- You should have received a 6419 letter in the mail if you qualified for the Advanced Child Tax Credit – money the federal government has sent to the families of nearly 60 million children. Families should have received the funds by direct deposit or check.
Since the amount of money a family was entitled to varied depending on their income and the number of children, letter 6419 confirms the amount a family received.
Letter 6475, on the other hand, confirms that you received the third stimulus check that the federal government began sending in March 2021.
Amy Spivey, director of the UC Hastings Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic, has already encountered several people who forget to bring these forms to their filing appointments. “Without these forms, it is difficult for us to know what to declare as advance payments on the declaration,” she said.
“If reported incorrectly, the IRS will make adjustments to your refund,” Spivey said, adding that the Advance Child Tax Credit and third stimulus checks are part of your tax refund. total for 2021. Being clear about how much of your refund you’ve already received ensures you don’t accidentally “count twice” when returning.
What should you do if you did not receive letter 6475 or letter 6419? You can check your IRS account online to confirm if you are eligible for these benefits and print these forms.
Once you’ve assembled your filing kit, be sure to share all with your declarant. And even if you misplaced a form, let your filer know what benefits you received in 2021.
This includes the second Golden State Stimulus payment the state government sent to most Californians late last year. If you haven’t received a second Golden State Stimulus payment, but think you’re eligible, you can confirm your eligibility (and the amount you might receive) on the California Franchise Tax Board website.
What many community tax clinics have noticed this year is that many clients come to believe that they are entitled to certain tax credits, when this may not be the case. For example, some clients believe that everyone, regardless of income, qualifies for the earned income tax credit.
But really, that cash back “is based on the income you receive and the number of dependents you report on your tax return,” said UC Hastings’ Spivey — and it’s only available to families who earned less than $57,414.
California has its own state version of this refund, called the California Earned Income Tax Credit (CalEITC). But there are income restrictions on who can receive this: Only families earning up to $30,000 a year are eligible.
If you don’t have proof of health care coverage (like a Form 1095-B or 1095-A) because you don’t have health insurance, you should make this very clear to your tax preparer. .
You can most likely be penalized by the State of California for not being insured. You can use the Penalty Estimator Tool on the California Franchise Tax Board website to calculate the magnitude of this penalty for you.