Accessible Tax Preparation
Tax time is stressful for everyone. It involves organizing receipts and tax documents, filling out confusing forms, working with accountants, and meeting that fast-approaching deadline every spring.
For people with age-related vision problems, there is often added anxiety around tax time since most receipts and paperwork come in small print that is difficult, if not impossible, for people with eye conditions such as glaucoma and macular degeneration to read.
To help seniors experiencing vision changes get organized and find helpful resources and tips, here is a Tax Guide dedicated to getting yourself organized for this annual event and making the filing process more accessible.
Getting Ready to File? It’s Time to Get Organized!
- Invest in a magnification device from a doctor specializing in low vision rehabilitation or electronic magnification devices called video magnifiers. These devices can help you read the small print on receipts and IRS forms.
- If you itemize your income tax deductions, you must first organize your receipts from the year. Use hanging or pocket folders to organize receipts and other tax documents, and mark all file folders with bold, large print labels.
- Ask your bank to send you statements in large print. Banks must make your statements available in accessible formats, such as large print or braille, if requested.
Need Help With Filing? Follow These Tips
- Visit the IRS website to download tax forms and instructions in the most accessible format for you to read—large print, braille, or HTML versions for assistive technology users.
- Use a magnification device to help you read your W-2 and other preprinted tax forms.
- If you need help preparing basic tax forms, the AARP Tax-Aide program offers free tax preparation help from February 1 through April 15th.
- You can also get free help with your tax return through Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE).
- If you are legally blind, indicate that on your tax form since you may qualify for a higher deduction. Find information about itemized deductions for medical expenses.
- Social Security offers resources that may help you prepare and file taxes, including where you can find free help and advice.
- Check out the American Council of the Blind information page on filing taxes.
- Though online tax preparation and e-filing have become extremely popular, many are not accessible to people who use screen readers or screen magnifiers. Before using an online tax program, ensure you can easily navigate it using your assistive technology.
Working With an Accountant? Follow These Tips.
- It is important to use a reputable accountant because you are ultimately responsible for the return filed under your name. Word-of-mouth is a great way to find a credible accountant in your area. The IRS website also offers good tips on finding a credible tax preparer.
- Once you’re working with an accountant you trust, ask him or her to prepare your taxes using large print forms, or another accessible format, so that you can review your return before you sign it.
- Tell your accountant if you are legally blind since you may qualify for a higher deduction.
- Once your accountant has completed your return, ask him or her to read through the form with you to allow you to ask questions about figures you do not understand.
Ready to File? Follow These Tips.
- When it’s time to sign your return, use a signature guide to help you ensure you’ve signed in the appropriate place.
- If you owe taxes and must write a check, ask your bank to order bold-line large-print checks from Deluxe (1-800-328-0304).
- If you expect a federal refund, you can check its status through the “Where’s My Refund?” tool on the IRS website. According to the IRS, this online tool is accessible to taxpayers who use the JAWS screen reader alone or with a braille display compatible with different JAWS modes.
- If you do not have internet access, you can check the status of your refund by calling the IRS TeleTax System at 800-829-4477 or the IRS Refund Hotline at 800-829-1954. When calling, you must provide your or your spouse’s social security number, filing status, and the refund amount shown on your return.
Various federal and state government financial incentives can help employers capitalize on the skills and talents people with disabilities have to offer. EARN recently developed a new website guide containing detailed descriptions of federal and state tax incentives, including those specific to veterans and return-to-work/stay-at-work initiatives. Visit the Employer Financial Incentives webpage.
Find out about the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (Able Act). This Act gives people with disabilities a way to save money for qualifying expenses such as a car, college or career training, healthcare, prevention and wellness, and other expenses without being taxed or impacting eligibility for benefits programs.
The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) is a Federal benefit for employers hiring individuals from specific target groups, including certain people with disabilities. WOTC helps targeted workers move into self-sufficiency as they earn a steady income while participating employers can reduce their income tax liability.