Free tax help still available


Procrastinators do have two extra days to get their income taxes done, but time is running out for those who want or need free help. Everyone knows April 15 is the tax filing deadline, but not this year. You have until April 17 this time around, but this is the last weekend before the deadline. Fortunately free help is available.

Deborah Driver has always paid someone to file her taxes, but not this year. This time around she's having the forms filled out for free.

She said, "I was a little skeptical, I really was, because like I said, nothing is free."

But in Driver's case, the tax preparer is in fact not charging her anything to do her taxes. So far more than 20,000 area residents have gotten free tax prep help at Neighborhood Tax Centers.

Volunteer Earline Lewis said, "I do feel bad whenever they have paid someone to prepare their taxes before and I feel like saying, 'Hey don't go over there, come over here.'"

Lewis is an IRS-certified volunteer tax preparer. She, along with dozens of others, have spent the last few months filling out taxes forms for those who need help, often finding ways to increase refunds.

"We asked them certain questions to try to find out if they qualify for tax credits like the earned income tax credit and the child care credit, even dependent care expenses," Lewis explained.

There are 15 Neighborhood Tax Centers in our area and they will have extended hours this weekend for those who need help.

"We will be open from now until Tuesday, including Sundays at almost all of our locations," said Elizabeth Ferrer with Neighborhood Tax Centers. "Because we are first come, first serve basis, if you make it in right at our closing hour, we will stay with you until we serve you."

Ferrer tells us this year the organization hopes to secure $40 million in refunds.

If you owe money, you can always file an extension, but Lea Crusberg with the IRS says you still have to pay what you owe by April 17.

"An extension of time to file your taxes, not an extension of time to pay your taxes," Crusberg explained.

To qualify for the help, couples cannot earn more than $75,000 and individuals cannot earn more than $40,000 a year. It turns out half of the taxpayers in our area meet these requirements.

To find a Neighborhood Tax Center near you, you can call the United Way at 211, or you can check this map.
University of St. Thomas Center for Income Tax Assistance (CITA) will provide last-minute free income tax assistance on the UST campus this Friday, April 13, 4-8 pm, in Welder Hall, 3812 Yoakum, Room 108 (Basilian Room). No appointment is necessary. Parking available in Moran Center Parking Facility, 3807 Graustark for $2 or street parking is available.

This event is an extension of our current tax clinic in the near north side, currently housed at the MD Anderson YMCA (705 Cavalcade, 77009). For the past 29 years, more than 50 University of St. Thomas accounting students, alumni and volunteers have been providing free tax preparation through the IRS VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance)Program). We will be at the MD Anderson YMCA on Saturday 9 am - 1 pm (no appointment necessary).

Tax preparation will be available for Forms 1040EZ, 1040A, and even the long form 1040. The program also offers assistance with itemized deductions (Schedule A), interest and dividend income (Schedule B), simple self-employment (Schedule C), simple capital gains and losses (Schedule D), and most of the personal credits (earned income credit, child tax credit, education credits, dependent care credit, etc.) However, we cannot prepare Form 1040NR, which is the form required of nonresident aliens and foreign (F-1 Visa) students.

Bring a copy of the previous year's return (if available), the social security cards of taxpayer/spouse/dependents, and current year tax forms and papers such as W-2s, 1099s, bank and investment statements, 1098-T tuition and textbook payments, 1098-E student loan interest, 1098 mortgage interest and property taxes, child care provider statements, and the like.

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