By Jessica Mathews /

It’s tax season again and low-income Livingston County residents again have some options to help them file for free and obtain need credits.

Due to late tax law changes that happened in late 2020, the date to begin filing was pushed out to February 12th to get the system ready to begin accepting returns. Although there has been some speculation, as it stands now the deadline to file is still April 15th and different organizations and volunteers are again offering free assistance.

Longtime local tax preparation volunteer John Dillon says because of the pandemic on-site tax prep is not being offered but there are still ways for individuals and families to get their taxes done for free, so long as they fall within the income guidelines of $57,000 or less. The process is a little more laborious due to the pandemic but under the circumstances, he says it’s the best that can be done right now but there are still a lot of volunteers willing to help people out.

Dillon says people that have the capability to copy, or scan, or take pictures of their documents can upload those to a secure site with preparers who are part of the IRS’s income tax volunteer assistance program. If not, he says there are numerous drop-off sites where people can go in and get their documents scanned into a file and then have their returns prepared at home by trained preparers before coming back to review everything. Since many people weren’t able to get their 2019 taxes filed last year, volunteer organizations will also do those returns.

Dillon tells WHMI this year is unique but they’re trying to find ways to help people get their taxes done for free. He stressed that it’s important this year to have people who are professionally trained to do tax returns because there are a number of changes that have taken place with tax law because of the pandemic.

He says people who didn’t receive one or more of their stimulus payments get those payments when filing their taxes. People who took money out of their 401K or IRA due to the pandemic and are under age 59-and-a-half would normally have to pay a penalty but that has been waived. Dillon says those individuals also have a certain period of time to put it back in and not have penalties. There are also other changes for people who have child tax credits or earned income credit. Since income for many people might have gone down in 2020, there’s an option to use their earned income from 2019 if it’s to their benefit. Dillon said people can use the income from either year and he’s seen cases where it has been very beneficial to people because their income went down significantly. People who use the standard deduction can also take an extra $300 for a charitable contribution and have it taken out of their income before the tax amount is calculated.

Dillon noted that unemployment benefits are taxable but if people end up owing enough where they would normally get a penalty or be charged interest because they didn’t have enough taxes withheld, that penalty has been waived by the state.

Information about different organizations and drop-off sites in Livingston County can be found in the attached document.