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Discount Diva: Where to find free help for filing taxes

Samantha Christmann

There are 78 days until Tax Day.

I know, it’s not quite as fun as counting down to vacation or the last day of school. But at least you get an extra three days in tax season. April 15 falls on a Saturday this year, so it gets bumped to the following Monday. But that Monday happens to be Emancipation Day, so Tax Day gets bumped again, meaning you have until Tuesday, April 18, to file your 2016 income taxes.

Unfortunately, your tax return may be delayed as well.

If you benefit from the Earned Income Tax Credit or the Additional Child Tax Credit, you may not be able to get your hands on your refund until the week of Feb. 27, no matter how early you file, according to the Internal Revenue Service. That’s because a new law requires the IRS to hold onto any refunds associated with those credits until Feb. 15. Weekends and the President’s Day holiday may cause more lag from there.

Those credits are no small potatoes. The EITC alone can save a family with three children as much as $8,463. In 2014, 112,440 Western New Yorkers claimed almost $316 million.

If you’re ready to get started on your returns, here’s some information that might come in handy.

• IRS FreeFile. If your household earns less than $64,000 a year, you can use the IRS’s tax preparation software for free. If you earn more than $64,000, you can still use FreeFile to file your federal taxes for free, but you won’t get the tax prep help. Visit

• If your household earnings for 2016 were less than $64,000, you can get free tax prep and filing for both federal and state taxes at

• TurboTax military discount. Active-duty military in classes E1 through E5 can use the software free to file state and federal taxes. Classes 6 and above are eligible for a $5 discount. Visit

• Volunteer Income Tax Assistance. Those earning $54,000 or less, as well as people with disabilities and people speaking limited English can find free, in-person tax help from IRS-certified volunteers and free electronic filing through the VITA program. Call 1-800-906-9887 to find VITA sites, or visit

• Tax Counseling for the Elderly. Despite its name, the TCE program is open to all taxpayers. It is especially equipped to help those age 60 and older, and answer senior-specific questions about things such as retirement and pensions. TCE volunteers are IRS-certified and are often seniors themselves.

VITA and TCE sites are located throughout Western New York at community centers, libraries, schools and other community spaces. To find a TCE site, call 1-888-227-7669 or visit

If you go, be sure to bring photo ID, Social Security cards for both spouses and all dependents (or Individual Taxpayer Identification numbers), birthdates for spouses and dependents, wage and earning statements from all employers, all interest and dividend statements from banks, health insurance statements, Affordable Health Care statements, last year’s state and federal tax returns, a blank check (or proof of bank account and routing numbers), total amount paid for day care and the provider’s tax ID or social security number, and copies of income transcripts.

Both spouses must be present to efile married-filing-joint tax returns.

• You can check the status of your refund at or the app IRS2Go.

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