Free income tax assistance for struggling households coming countywide

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Pinal County – Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013 marks EITC Awareness Day, a nationwide effort to increase public awareness about Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and free tax preparation sites. Individuals in Pinal County who work but don’t earn a lot of money may be eligible for free income tax assistance where they can go find out if they qualify for EITC.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) locations provide free tax filing services to help these taxpayers avoid unnecessary fees and receive every dollar back in Earned Income Tax Credit and other tax credits.

The Earned Income Tax Credit is the largest anti-poverty campaign of the U.S. government, lifting millions of families out of poverty since its enactment in 1975. The EITC supplements wages, reduces the recipient’s tax burden, and encourages employment.

This year, taxpayers with dependents must have had less than $51,000 in 2012 income and with no dependents, less than $25,000 in 2012 income. The credit may be worth between $2 and $5,666 depending on the taxpayer’s individual circumstances.

“The EITC is a valuable but somewhat complicated tax break for workers with modest incomes,” said Frances Ortez, VITA program manager at United Way of Pinal County. “Many people need, but can’t afford certified assistance to claim it. That is when free tax preparation assistance at VITA sites can be a tremendous saver.”

Past IRS estimates were that twenty to twenty-five percent of qualifying taxpayers failed to claim this credit which helps struggling households catch up on utility bills, rent, and to afford car maintenance among other uses. This is especially true in rural communities, for taxpayers that are self-employed, and those who qualify without dependent children.

Increased VITA awareness efforts which began in 2003 have led to 4 out of 5 eligible taxpayers now taking advantage of the EITC.

Beverly Prueter, Executive Director of United Way of Pinal County said VITA sites began opening on January 31, with the official kick off of the 2013 VITA season at Sun Life Family Health Center on EITC day, Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013, with door prizes and refreshments for individuals seeking free tax assistance. Taxpayers are seen preferably by appointment and walk-ins are also welcome.

The hours at Sun Life are 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Additional hours and site locations are listed below.

“The Pinal County VITA program is now in its sixth season, and our goal is to reach over 700 taxpayers in the county to ensure every qualified worker claims and receives their EITC and other credits,” Prueter said.

The following are the locations and hours of the 2013 VITA sites:

Coolidge: Central Arizona College, 168 South Main Street, Coolidge—Tuesdays beginning February 5, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Eloy: Eloy Public Library, 1000 North Main Street, Eloy—Wednesdays beginning Feb. 6

4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Maricopa: Maricopa Public Library, 41600 West Smith-Enke Road, Maricopa – Fridays and Saturdays beginning Feb. 1, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

San Tan Valley: One Community Church, 35244 N. Trica Rd., San Tan Valley – Saturdays beginning Feb. 9, 9:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.

Casa Grande: Seeds of Hope Community Center, 1487 N. Crane St., Casa Grande—Mondays, beginning Jan. 31, and Select Thursdays, 6:30 p.m. -8:30 p.m.

Casa Grande: Sun Life Family Health Center, 865 North Arizola Road, Casa Grande—Saturdays Feb. 2, Feb. 9, Feb. 23; Mar. 2, Mar. 9, Mar. 23 and Apr. 6, Apr. 13; 8 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

All the above locations are open by appointment; walk-ins will be accepted within one hour of site closing time.

People should come prepared with the following items:

●Social Security cards for all persons listed on the return

●Valid driver’s license or photo identification (self & spouse, if applicable)

●All income statements: Forms W-2, 1099, Social Security, Unemployment, or other benefits statements, self-employment records and any documents showing taxes withheld

●Prior year tax return (if available)

●Dependent child care information: payee’s name, address and SSN or TIN

●Proof of account at financial institution for direct debit or deposit (account and routing numbers)

●Any other pertinent tax documents

●To e-file, both spouses must be present to sign the required forms

Area residents should call the United Way office at 520-836-0736 extension 11 or 16 for more information on Pinal County VITA sites.

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