Virtual Tax Assistance Program

Convenient, Free Tax Assistance From the Comfort of Your Own Home

  • Completely free service for eligible clients
  • Assistance available via phone and e-mail
  • File current and back taxes (2020 and 2017)

New Completely Online Tax Assistance Preparation (Virtual TAP)

In this new Virtual Tax Assistance Program (Virtual TAP), every step of the process will happen without being in the same room as the person helping you with your return. While you may have had your return prepared by Ladder Up in past years at one of our many in-person tax site locations, completely remote tax preparation is new to all of us. We have created this process to minimize the risk for you and our volunteers, and to ensure that we can follow social distancing guidelines as recommended by public health agencies.

Please review the information on this page regarding eligibility, process, and frequently asked questions to make sure you are in scope for our program before proceeding. Check that you have all your required identification and tax documents for the year you wish to file before completing a client interest form below. 

Eligibility

YOU MUST HAVE A VALID E-MAIL ADDRESS AND PHONE NUMBER TO PARTICIPATE IN THE VIRTUAL TAX ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (TAP). YOU ALSO NEED ACCESS TO A SMARTPHONE OR COMPUTER.

Ladder Up provides free tax assistance to individuals earning up to $30,000 per year, and households earning up to $57,000 per year.

At this time, Virtual TAP is only available to full-year Illinois residents.

There are some types of income that are considered out-of-scope for Ladder Up and other VITA programs. Please check our regular eligibility requirement page for more information.

How Does Online (Virtual TAP) Work?

At an in-person tax site, you may recall seeing the IRS Form 13614-C and additional intake documents. Ladder Up has created a modified version of these forms that you will need to complete online using a smartphone or computer.

After we receive your completed forms, we will send you an e-mail with next steps and a secure link to your individual client file. You will use the secure link to upload all your identification and tax documents into your client file. Once you have uploaded all your documents, you will be invited to schedule a phone or video interview with a certified Case Reviewer who will review all your information and confirm that you are eligible to receive free tax preparation services.

Throughout the process, all your information and documents will be stored securely behind a firewall on our server, which is located permanently in our main office. After your tax return has been completed, all your documents will be deleted off the server.

During the tax preparation and review steps of the process, we will share your client file with our experienced, IRS-certified volunteers. They will prepare and review your tax return by accessing the secure server in the Ladder Up office using an encrypted remote-access tool. After they have finished preparing and reviewing your return, you will be invited to schedule a second required phone or video appointment to review the return with a certified volunteer and to ask questions before your return is finalized and transmitted to the IRS.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) sponsors the Ladder Up Virtual Tax Assistance Program. The mission of this program is to provide free basic tax return preparation for low-to-moderate income and elderly taxpayers. This also includes taxpayers with disabilities and limited English proficiency. Volunteers participating in these programs must sign a Form 13615, Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement – VITA/TCE Programs. These agreements require volunteers to provide high-quality service and uphold the highest ethical standards. To report unethical behavior to IRS, please e-mail wi.voltax@irs.gov.

As a Ladder Up Virtual TAP client, your civil rights are protected. If you believe you have been discriminated against on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, disability, reprisal or age, you may file a written complaint by contacting info@goladderup.org or the Civil Rights Division of the IRS at eeo.external.civil.rights@irs.gov.

Getting Started with Virtual TAP

If you do not meet our eligibility requirements for in-person services, you can prepare and file your own 2020 taxes for free online using IRS Free File starting January 30, 2021, until October 15, 2021: goladderup.org/freefile

Starting January 1, 2021, clients may begin scheduling their appointment online or by calling (312) 588-6900.

FAQs

What tax years can you help me complete?

We can prepare and file your taxes for 2020 and 2017

How does the process work?

How Virtual TAP Works: 6-Step Process

Para ver esta información en español, haga clic aquí.

Step 1: Answer questions and complete required forms via DocuSign.
We’ll ask you a series of required questions about your tax situation.

Step 2: Submit your identification and tax documents using a secure link.
You will receive a secure link, asking you to upload all necessary identification and tax documents (ID, W-2s, 1099s, 1095-A, etc).

Step 3: Phone Interview.
Your Case Reviewer will review all your materials with you on a phone call. Make sure you are available to answer, and have uploaded all your documents at least 24 hours before your phone appointment!

Step 4: Your tax return is prepared and reviewed remotely.
IRS-certified volunteers will prepare and review your tax return using secure remote access. Each return is looked at by at least two people to ensure quality and accuracy.

Step 5: Phone Review of Tax Return.
You must make another phone appointment to review your tax return on a phone call before you can sign and submit a final copy.

Step 6: Sign and file your tax return.
After you have reviewed your tax return, Ladder Up will ask you to complete the final signature pages and help you to file your return.

What should I do if I am missing a tax document?

We need you to have all of your tax documents for the year you wish to file before we can assist you.

If you are missing a tax document, or never received it, check with the issuing agency. If you’re missing a W-2 or 1099, check with your employer. You can also request your tax transcript from the IRS online at: https://www.irs.gov/individuals/get-transcript

On the intake forms, what if I need to change one of my answers or am unsure of how to answer a question?

Throughout the process, you can reach out to us with any questions that you have! The fastest way to reach us is to respond directly to the e-mail exchange you are having with us. (When you send a separate e-mail it will take us a while to track down your ticket in the system and see what step you are on.)

We will also always have a volunteer call you to discuss your situation before your return is sent to the Tax Prep Hub, and you can let them know about any changes or answers you were unsure about on your intake and consent forms before we begin to prepare your taxes.

We will also invite you to have a second phone call appointment before the tax return is finalized, so that we can review the information together and you can make sure it looks correct before submitting it to the IRS and Illinois Department of Revenue.

Am I eligible for this free service?

Ladder Up provides free tax assistance to individuals earning up to $30,000 per year, and households earning up to $57,000 per year.

Virtual TAP is only available to full-year Illinois residents.

There are some types of income that are considered out-of-scope for Ladder Up and other VITA programs. Please check our regular eligibility requirement page for more information.

How long does the online Tax Assistance Program process take?

On average, the process will take 5-10 business days to complete.

The first two steps in the process are dependent upon you. You will need to spend 15-30 minutes to complete and sign all of the online forms, and then upload your tax documents. After you have completed those two steps, you will schedule a phone call with an IRS-certified volunteer or staff member who will review your materials and ensure that we have all the information we need to complete an accurate tax return. After the return has been created and reviewed, you will need to schedule a second phone call to discuss your return and the process for electronically signing and filing the return.

Are you still taking clients for Virtual TAP?

Ladder Up’s Virtual Tax Assistance Program is now closed to new clients.

If you still need to file a return for 2019, please visit our IRS Free File Page.