By Liz Kudwa
Q: I’ve started thinking about preparing my taxes and am wondering if there are any resources available that address any changes that may have occurred in tax law for 2005?
A: Yes, there are two reliable resources that I can recommend that address changes made to the 2005 federal tax law. First, try the IRS’ website – www.irs.gov. In the “Forms and Publications” section do a search for “Publication 553 – Highlights of 2004 Tax Changes”. Currently, this publication highlights tax law changes that take effect in 2004, 2005 and later years.
You also may try MSN’s Money website. Look for the “Taxes” tab. This will take you right into the area containing many tips and tools to help you with your taxes.
Visit the Michigan Department of Treasury’s website for state tax law changes – www.michigan.gov/treasury. Look for the “New Developments for 2005 Tax Year” link right at the top of the page.
The Capital Area District Library along with the State Employees Credit Union also is hosting a “Personal Tax Planning” program in January and February. The program will be held on the following dates and times.
* January 10, Tuesday, 6:00 p.m., Okemos Library
* January 26, Thursday, 6:00 p.m., Main Library
* February 16, Thursday, 6:00 p.m., Williamston Library
Advance registration is preferred. Please call 517-267-7171 or visit State Employees’ website at www.secu.org to register.
Q: I thought I might try e-filing this year but I’m still not sure how it works. Where can I get information on federal and state e-filing?
A: This is a great question! More people than ever e-filed their taxes last year. According to Michigan’s Department of Treasury, more than half of Michigan residents e-filed their 2004 tax returns making Michigan 3rd in the nation when it comes to e-filing. An increase was seen at the federal level too.
Both Federal and State governments are offering free e-filing this year, however there are some requirements to qualify for free e-file. At the Federal level free e-file is available to those with an adjusted gross income of $50,000 or less. For the full story, visit www.irs.gov/efile.
At the state level it varies depending on the tax preparer. To know for sure what the qualifications are for free state e-filing, visit www.michigan.gov/treasury and look for the “Quick Links” menu on the right side of the page. You will see a link for “E-File Taxes”.
Q: I need some help preparing my taxes. Is anyone offering free tax assistance this year?
A: In the Lansing area, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program provides free tax preparation services to qualified members of the Greater Lansing community. VITA only assists with individual income tax filing, not business tax filing or filing for the self-employed.
Here are the particulars for VITA assistance:
* All senior citizens (age 55 or older) qualify for VITA. If you are NOT a senior citizen, your income must be $21,000 if you are an individual and $30,000 or less if you have dependents. Some sites allow income up to $36,000. Call 517-337-8211 to get more information.
* VITA runs January 31 to April 13, 2005. The scheduling of appointments starts January 3, 2005. Sites have different start dates so call 337-8211 to get more information.
* You MUST call ahead to schedule an appointment. Office hours are Monday through Friday between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Please leave a message if calling after hours.
* If you wish to e-file please note the sites that offer this service. Many sites DO NOT have this service.
* You will need to bring the following items to your appointments: W-2 forms, Social Security numbers for ALL members of the family, childcare information, proof of rent payment, and heat and water bills. You also may need to bring unemployment compensation forms, pension forms, IRA forms, interest form 1099, or social security benefit forms if any of these apply to you.
A partial list of VITA sites includes Black Child and Family Institute, Letts Community Center, Cristo Rey Community Center, Foster Community Center, the Main Library of the Capital Area District Library, and Michigan Works!. For additional site locations, please call 517-337-8211 or visit the library’s website at www.cadl.org. Just click on “Research Tools” and then “Tax Forms & Info”. We will have updated tax and tax assistance information starting in January of 2006.