Tax season can be distressing, maddening and unnerving, especially during a pandemic. Trying to organize piles of receipts and tax documents, attempting to complete puzzling forms or hiring a reputable and trustworthy accountant–then finishing all of this by April 15.
It can be even more stressful for those who have a visual impairment since most paperwork comes in small print that is difficult to read.
It can require finding an honest and trustworthy person to assist with combing through private and financial information. And if you want to prepare your own taxes online, making sure that websites and tax preparation software is accessible. So how do you get ready for tax season?
These are tax tips for the visually impaired community to help relieve some of the stress and frustration.
Get organized before you file your taxes. Gather your receipts, paycheck stubs, medical and IRS forms. Use file folders with either braille or large print labels. Use magnification devices or adaptive technology to read and scan documents for arranging, marking, labeling and organizing. This is especially important if you will itemize your income tax deductions.
Decide how to file
Decide your filing method after you organize your paperwork. Will you do your own filing or hire an accountant to do the work? If you decide to file your own tax return, the IRS has accessible forms that you can download from their website.
The forms are in large print, braille, or ASCII text and HTML versions for assistive technology users. There is also the option of e-filing. Be aware, although popular, many e-filing sites are not totally accessible with screen readers or magnification software.
Before you start using an online tax program, make sure you can easily navigate it using your adaptive technology. If you need assistance with adaptive technology to access these websites, reach out to Outlook Enrichment’s adaptive technology trainers, or utilize the virtual assistant smartphone apps like Be My Eyes and AIRA.
Hire an accountant
Ask your family and friends for recommendations if you decide to hire an accountant. Referrals often come via word of mouth. Additionally, the IRS has great advice on hiring a creditable accountant.
Once hired, ask them to prepare your taxes using large print forms or electronic format, so you can review your return before you sign it. Take the time with the accountant to review the tax form once it has been completed to be sure everything is correct. Although you are getting an accountant to file your taxes, you are still responsible for the filing of your return. Additionally, get in writing a guarantee of service so if there are errors in filing you know who is responsible and how those errors will be corrected.
Free tax help with AARP
If you want to get free tax assistance, the AARP Tax-Aide program offers tax preparation help under COVID in three ways: virtual, document drop off and in person; all with a scheduled appointment.
Tax-aide volunteers are located nationwide, and are trained and IRS-certified every year to make sure they are up to date on the latest changes and additions to the tax code. Schedule an appointment on their website using your zip code. For more information, call their hotline at (888) 687-2277.
Special tax qualifications for blindness
Special tax qualifications are available for people who are visually impaired and blind. If you are legally blind, indicate that on your tax form.
This status can allow you to qualify for a higher deduction. Additionally, devices related to blindness can be a deduction such as braille note takers, paper, embossers, items for a guide dog, adaptive technology, etc. Be sure to double check this information when filing your return because every little tax break can help.
The fastest, easiest and safest way to get a refund is through direct deposit. If you are expecting a federal refund, you can check its status through the "Where's My Refund?" section on the IRS website or app.
But do expect some delays due to COVID-19 and depending on when you filed your return. If you do not have internet access, you can check your refund status by calling the IRS TeleTax System at (800) 829-4477 or the IRS Refund Hotline at (800) 829-1954.
When calling, you must provide a social security number for you or your spouse, your filing status, and the exact refund amount shown on your return.
Beware of fraud
Watch out for the increased volume of tax-related identity fraud. It involves using your personal information to file a fraudulent tax return in someone else's name.
The purpose is to collect a tax refund before you have had an opportunity to file your real tax return. The IRS created the Taxpayer Guide to Identity theft in order to help people avoid this problem.
If you have any questions on these tax tips for the visually impaired, contact us today for further assistance. We can provide a plethora of programs and direct you to the right places! Contact us now!