Free tax-filing help available for many Houstonians

This Aug. 21, 2014 file photo shows health care tax forms 8962, 1095-A, and 8965, in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

As April 15 draws near, plenty of places have popped up offering tax help for a fee, but you can get your taxes done for free.

This year, there are a lot of questions about the Affordable Care Act; some people are paying a penalty, others are getting exemptions. But no matter the complexity of your tax situation, free help is right around the corner.

When tax time nears, Sheila Goodly heads to Neighborhood Tax Centers.

"We've been coming here about three years now," said Goodly.

Goodly says a professional preparer can cost hundreds of dollars, but the free help offered at Neighborhood Centers is just as good.

"Every time we came to do our taxes they take all the time out to help people," said Goodly.

Last year 35,000 returns were filed at Neighborhood Centers around Houston, bringing back more than $52 million in refunds.

This year, the Affordable Care Act penalties are catching some taxpayers off guard.

"Most people are surprised when they see an additional tax penalty," said Richard Rodriguez.

As a volunteer tax preparer, Richard Rodriguez knows about the exemptions to the penalty for those who qualify. The big exemption?

"Their income is below the filing threshold," said Rodriguez.

To get the free tax help, you must earn less than $58,000, and that's for families OR individuals.

It leaves plenty of people in Houston eligible for the free help.

"Our goal is to prepare over 36,000 tax returns, and we are over half way through, and we are over half way through the tax season," said Cristina Cave with Neighborhood Tax Centers.

There are 16 Neighborhood Centers around Houston. Find one near you at www.freetaxcenters.org or call 211.
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