Free Tax Preparation Services | Actors Fund

Free Tax Preparation Services

The IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs offer tax help for taxpayers who qualify. Services are completely free and include completing and e-filing your return and direct deposit of your refund.

In-Person Services (all cities)

***Due to COVID-19, many in-person VITA / TCE sites are closed.***

At these sites, you will sit down with a VITA or TCE preparer. Depending on the site, you may walk in and/or call for an appointment. Some sites have income limits.

New York City

Virtual Tax Prep Services

Some NYC VITA sites are offering remote support with tax preparation of basic returns. You will upload your tax documents to a secure digital system and then have a 60-90 minute virtual call with a VITA / TCE volunteer preparer who will answer your tax questions and help you file your 2020 return. To be eligible for this free virtual service you must have income of $48,000 or less (single filers) or $68,000 or less (families) in 2020.

Assisted Self-Preparation

File your own taxes online using free tax filing software but contact a VITA / TCE volunteer preparer for help when needed. Additional income / age limits apply.  

AEA and SAG-AFTRA Union Member VITA Site

As of February 2021, the VITA site located at the NYC Actors’ Equity building is closed due to the pandemic. There is no remote tax preparation service at or in connection with this site. Volunteer tax preparers continue to be trained and certified, and the site will reopen when staff and members can safely return. Updates will be posted to the AEA and SAG-AFTRA websites as available.

Chicago

Drop-Off Services

The City of Chicago works with its nonprofit partner, Ladder Up, to offer free tax help. Ladder Up is operating drop-off services only. You are required to have an appointment before entering a location.

Los Angeles

Virtual & Drop-Off Services

IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals. Depending on the site, virtual and/or drop-off service may be available, and an appointment may be required.

The Actors Fund VITA Site 

For everyone's safety, the VITA site located at The Actors Fund offices in Los Angeles has canceled all appointments and services for 2021. There are no drop- off, remote tax preparation, or consultation services in connection with this site. We apologize for the inconvenience and hope to see you next year.

Self-Preparation

Federal Return

The IRS Free File program offers access to brand-name tax preparation software free of charge for those who earned $72,000 or less in 2020. Returns may be completed online at IRS.gov or using the IRS2Go app. Some Free File packages also offer free state tax return preparation.

State Returns

You may visit the following sites to self-prepare and file your state return:

  • New York – Prepare and file your NY state return for free (subject to an income cap) here
  • Illinois – Prepare and file your IL state return for free here
  • California – Prepare and file your CA state return for free here

Preparing to File

To support performing arts professionals in gathering and organizing their tax information, The Actors Fund VITA site, SAG-AFTRA, and Actors’ Equity have posted free 2020 VITA worksheets that anyone may use.

Online Tax Help

IRS online resources to help taxpayers.

Tax Preparation FAQs

When do I file?

If your due date falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, the due date is delayed until the next business day. Your return is considered filed on time if the envelope is properly addressed, postmarked and deposited in the mail by the due date.

  • Calendar Year Filers (most common) file on or before April 15
  • Fiscal Year Filers File on day 15 of the 4th month after your fiscal year ends

What if I can’t file by the due date?

If you can’t file by the due date of your return, request an extension of time to file. You must file Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, by the due date of your return. You will receive an automatic 6-month extension to file your return. Note that an extension of time to file is not an extension of time to pay. You may be subject to a late payment penalty on any tax not paid by the original due date of your return.

  • Access Form 4868 here

What if I can’t afford to pay my taxes?

If you believe you may have trouble paying your tax bill, you are encouraged to contact the IRS.

I received a financial assistance grant from The Actors Fund. Is this taxable?

No. Financial assistance grants from The Actors Fund are considered gifts and are not taxable. You will not receive a Form 1099.

Is my Unemployment / EDD income taxable?

Yes. Unemployment / EDD payments must be reported on your federal tax return. These payments are taxable in certain states (including NY) and exempt from state taxes in others (including CA). You will receive a 1099G form in the mail to include in your tax filing. Federally taxable unemployment payments include:

  • Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits including Federal Extensions (FED-ED), Pandemic Additional Compensation (PAC), Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) and Lost Wages Assistance (LWA)
  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits
  • Disability Insurance (DI) benefits received as a substitute for UI benefits
  • Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) benefits
  • Paid Family Leave (PFL) benefits

For more information about how unemployment is taxed and to watch for fraud concerning unemployment claims, visit the following sites:

What tax credits should I know about as a performing arts professional?

What do I do if I am missing documents I need to file?

View the IRS guidance on how to handle missing documents.

What do I need to know about new tax reform laws?

Since 2018, business deductions against W2 income are no longer allowed. You can still use your business expenses as deductions against W2 income on your California and New York state returns. If you have cash income for which you receive a 1099 NEC (formally 1099 MISC) you can itemize expenses on your Schedule C.

For more information visit the following sites: