With tax season just around the corner, local organizations and volunteers are once again gearing up to offer free tax assistance to Portage County senior citizens, and low- and moderate-income individuals and families.
Starting Wednesday, Jan. 8, eligible Portage County residents can schedule a free tax appointment with a trained tax preparer by dialing United Way’s 2-1-1 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tax preparation services start February 1 and run through April 12.
“The new year marks the start of the tax season, and local organizations and volunteers are working hard to get ready to help people in Portage County maximize their returns,” said Erin Olson, CAP Services’ Project Development Coordinator. Olson coordinates the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, a joint effort of the United Way of Portage County’s 2-1-1, Mid-State Technical College (MSTC) and CAP Services.
The VITA program offers free tax help to people who make $51,000 or less and need assistance in preparing their own tax returns. IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals in local communities. They can inform taxpayers about special tax credits for which they may qualify such as Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), Child Tax Credit, and Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled.
“The VITA program is key in helping households capture all the tax credits and refunds due them, increasing disposable income and providing more resources to make ends meet,” said Olson. “Last year, volunteers assisted 261 households in Portage County to secure nearly $432,000 in income tax refunds. Those are dollars that flow back into our communities. These additional dollars are spent at the local grocery store, barbershop and retail centers, sparking local economies.”
Olson said the EITC is one of the nation’s largest and most effective anti-poverty programs, credited with lifting more than six million people out of poverty each year. The EITC is a refundable tax credit available to qualifying low-wage workers and their families. The Internal Revenue Service estimates that only about four out of five eligible families claim the EITC for which they qualify.
The United Way of Portage County, through 2-1-1, also works with the Aging & Disability Resource Center (ADRC) Lincoln Center and the Portage County Public Library to offer free tax preparation services targeted at senior citizens through the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program. TCE offers free tax help with priority assistance to people who are 60 years of age and older, specializing in questions unique to seniors. Portage County volunteers assisted more than 820 people last year through TCE.
The tax preparation locations and schedule includes:
Aging & Disability Resource Center – Lincoln Center (TCE); 1519 Water St., Stevens Point; taking Thursday and Friday appointments
Portage County Public Library (TCE); 1001 Main St., Stevens Point; taking Saturday appointments
Mid-State Technical College (VITA); 933 Michigan Ave., Stevens Point; taking Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday appointments
For more information about tax services in Portage County or to find out if you qualify for services, call the United Way’s 2-1-1 starting Wednesday Jan. 8, or visit www.unitedwaypoco.org.