“News You Can Use” for Financial Literacy Month

Financial News You Can Use 200April is Financial Literacy Month and with Congress adjourned and tax season upon us, we thought this was a good time to remind you of two financial tools that might be of use.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA)

In the movie Stranger Than Fiction Will Farrell plays IRS auditor Harold Crick, which is how most people think of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).  But there’s kinder, gentler side to the agency, the side that runs the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.

The VITA program was originally founded in 1971 and the concept was to provide local taxpayers with free tax return preparation by accounting students, in effort to provide both a valuable community service and a powerful hands-on learning experience for the accounting students. The program grew from a small group of dedicated accounting students to what is now a nationwide program that serves millions of taxpayers.

Many Goodwill organizations now participate in this successful program by offering VITA services at their Goodwill sites.  All VITA staffers are IRS-certified volunteers that provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals. VITA offers free tax help to people who generally make $54,000 or less, persons with disabilities, and limited English speaking taxpayers who need assistance in preparing their own tax returns.

Go to your nearest Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site where you can meet with a trained VITA volunteer who will prepare your taxes for free.

Social Security Administration’s My Social Security Site

You might be used to waiting for those annual Social Security reports that provided information on your work history, benefits, and other information about your retirement.  But now you can get all of that online at Social Security’s My Social Security site.  Over 23 million people have created my Social Security accounts.

At the site you can create your account and then you review at any time your information online.  To create an account you must:

  • have a valid e-mail address;
  • have a Social Security number;
  • have a U.S. mailing address; and
  • be at least 18 years of age.

In addition, Social Security provides stepped up security options and provides warnings about scamming efforts.  Most important, you can review your information at any time and check for incorrect information.

Tax season can be a stressful time but these two services help many Americans reduce the anxiety, and they might keep Harold Crick from coming to your door.