Volunteer tax assistance program through CAC helping zero income earners get stimulus checks


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — While the IRS has started sending out the third stimulus checks, some are asking where their second, or even first stimulus checks are.

Many are finding it difficult to reach the IRS by phone and the agency’s website can be confusing.

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, or VITA, provides a free tax preparation service through Community Action Committee offices across East Tennessee.

Many of those missing their second stimulus check are people who don’t normally file a tax return.

Robert Baur is one of many people who has had trouble receiving that second stimulus check from the IRS. So, he tried calling to get help from the local office.

However, IRS workers are not in their offices due to the pandemic. Many IRS employees are working from home, and reaching them on the phone is difficult.

“It will go on with the music and about the third time is when it comes along and it says, ‘we are experiencing higher than normal call volume, please try again,'” Baur said.

VITA tax preparers are helping people at Knoxville’s CAC center, the L.T. Ross Building. Since VITA started helping seniors and low-income tax preparers early last month, quite a few people needed assistance getting their stimulus checks

“We have probably helped 500 to 600 people get stimulus checks,” VITA coordinator Terry Reed said. “Most of the time it involved filing a tax return with a zero income. Many of them, there only income is Social Security.”

Reed said he and his volunteers will file a zero-income tax return for those who have received last years’ stimulus.

However, for those missing a stimulus check other boxes are filled as Reed showed us from what’s called the recovery rebate credit worksheet.

Once VITA workers process that credit form those missing their stimulus check can expect a quick return.

The IRS has an online portal, the “Get My Payment” tool, that will then track a payment.

If you did not get an earlier payment you can get what you are owed by claiming the recovery rebate credit on your 2020 tax return. You can file a return just to claim the credit even if you are not required to file.

The third round of stimulus payments are not used to calculate the 2020 recovery rebate credit. Third round payments will be used to figure the credit amount on the 2021 tax return.

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