KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tax season has officially started and millions of Americans are preparing to file.
Terry Reed, the manager of Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, has been working there for the last 13 years. The program runs through the Knoxville-Knox County Community Action Committee and helps people file their taxes for free.
He said someone once drove all the way from Chicago to file his taxes with VITA.
"He said it was cheaper to drive here than to pay for it in Chicago," Reed said.
Now that tax season is underway, he said people are already booking appointments. Kim Robinson works at the front desk and said it can also cost a lot to file in Knoxville too.
"Most of the time to get your taxes filled out, even if it's simple, you may pay anywhere from $300 to maybe $500," Reed said. "If you want it back in a certain amount of time."
This year, things are changing for the Internal Revenue Service and for people's taxes. Things are going back to the way they were before the COVID-19 pandemic.
"There's nerves out there," Reed said. "But the biggest thing is they don't understand the differences."
Reed said there are monthly credits and lump sum credits at play in this year's tax season, and warned that it can be confusing. At VITA they do taxes all year round and during off season.
This program is designed primarily to those who make $66,000 per year and below, Reed said. But it's more about the forms that you bring. If you bring all of your forms, the income limit won't matter.
"It's important when you come in to do your taxes," Reed said. "If you have a social security card for every person's name that will appear on the tax form, the main tax payer that would be the one who's listed as the first person or if you're married filing jointly, we have to have picture IDs on those folks."
One of the most common mistakes Reed said people make is they they don't claim all the dependents that are in their home, which can get them more funds.
Another common obstacle is that tax filers they may forget to bring a W-2, or they may not bring in all of their forms.
"Or they forget, maybe they had a part time job, or they work at a job for a month or two and they don't bring those W-2s in," Reed said. "They forget that they had the job."
Bonita Gillespie is the owner of Gillespie Financial & Tax Service and is also a certified public accountant. Since she was a student, she's been working with VITA.
"It bothered me that you had poor people paying this big chunk of money when that they just waited seven to 14 days to get all of their money," Gillespie said.
In her experience, during tax season every person comes in with their own unique situation. She said that when it comes to taxes, every filiing is unique.
"Most people think that they're gonna get a refund," Gillespie said. "But no single tax return is the same. Everybody's conditions are different."
Reed said the electronic route is the fastest way to get your refund. In Tennessee there is no state income tax, so all residents need to file for is for federal income tax.
The IRS also lets people file their taxes for free. One is a guided preparation that you answer simple questions. The other choice lets you do all the work.
"I always tell individuals, don't let IRS be your banker and let them withhold more money," Gillespie said. "So, that you can think you're gonna get this big lump check in during tax season, when you should get the money that you are entitled to throughout the year to pay your bills."