"Come to a tax center, you may have to wait a little bit, but you waited this long already," laughed Elizabeth Colvin with Neighborhood Tax Centers.
There more than a dozen Neighborhood Tax Centers in our area offering free help for tax payers who earn less than $45,000. The centers have been seeing a steady stream of filers and helping many grab a bigger return.
"Last year I was supposed to file with my parents and I did not get anything, but this year I am filing by myself and I was able to get some back from the government," said Joe Nguyen who was getting tax help.
The Neighborhood Tax Centers will have extended hours at many of its locations from now until April 15th. Volunteer preparers say changes in tax law are confusing some filers, especially the provision that allows Hurricane Ike victims to deduct their uninsured losses.
"Ike is a big question people are coming in with," Colvin told us. "People need to understand if you got insurance reimbursement, you can't claim the losses so we have to determine how much insurance money you got versus how much money you lost."
Another area of confusion is the stimulus package from a year ago. If taxpayers did not qualify for the full amount because of income, they might be able to get a bigger piece of the stimulus pie if income fell in 2008.
"They get another shot at it this year," said Houston CPA Bob Martin. "They may qualify if the 2008 income is lower and they did not get the full stimulus check, they may be able to claim it on their tax return."
The Earned Income Tax Credit is also a point of confusion. Workers with at least two kids can get a credit of $4,824 if they did not earn more than $38,646.
"Because of the downturn in the economy, people who have never qualified for the Earned Income Tax Credit may now qualify for it because their income went down in 2008," Martin explained.
Again, if you need help and earn less than $45,000, free help is available at Neighborhood Tax Centers through April 15th.
You can find those centers by calling the United Way at 2-1-1. We also have the center locations and times on my Consumer Blog.