BEND, Ore. - For many mid- to low-income individuals and families in Central Oregon, the new year offers hope and opportunities for renewed economic independence. Helping local residents to take advantage of those opportunities is the goal of United Way of Deschutes County's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.
Again this year, VITA volunteers will offer free tax preparation services for mid- to low income Central Oregon residents.
The VITA program, now in its seventh year, has helped thousands Central Oregon residents and their families file their state and federal taxes for FREE!
What's more, as in years past, volunteer tax preparers will be on hand to help wage earners take advantage of much-needed tax credits that many don't realize they are entitled to. That might just mean extra money in your pocket and a leg up on those new-year challenges.
Two such credits that VITA volunteers can help people claim are the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC). Volunteers can help tax filers to determine their eligibility and to claim the credits if they qualify.
"The money from these credits can make a real difference to workers and their families, particularly when they're working so hard to get themselves and their families back to economic health" said Pat McGuinness, Director of Programs for United Way of Deschutes County.
Examples of the top-tier qualifiers for the EITC are: workers earning less than $46,227 for single individuals and $51,567 for joint filers. Income can be from 2013 wages, self-employment or farming for those who have three or more qualifying children. The return scale decreases from there because "the EITC varies by income, family size and filing status," said McGuinness. Last season, the average EITC amount was about $1600."
Taxpayers who are single and who don't have children can also qualify for the EITC. A salary of $14,340 for single individuals and $19,680 for joint filers are the top thresholds for those taxpayers.
That could mean up to $6,044 in EITC credits for those with three or more qualifying children and a maximum credit of up to $487 for taxpayers without children. Unlike most deductions and credits, the EITC is refundable. In other words, those eligible may get a refund from the IRS even if they owe no tax.
The average income level for those filing taxes through the VITA program last year was $20,030.
Also available this year, are Facilitated Self Assistance (FSA) sites which are offered by UWDC and staffed by certified VITA volunteers. What that means is that taxpayers can come in and prepare returns themselves on IRS-approved tax programs and have the benefit of VITA volunteers available to help answer questions and assist with program issues if necessary.
VITA appointments are now available at the numbers listed below for dates ranging from Feb. 1 through April 15. FSA sites are walk-in only unless otherwise noted. Tax site clinics now taking appointments:
Bend Downtown Library Wednesday | 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
541.323.VITA (8482) Sat & Sun. | 12 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Redmond DHS Mon/Wed | 5 p.m. - 8 p.m.
Prineville COIC Saturdays | 9 am – 4 p.m.
COCC – Boyle Room 160 Wednesdays | 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. (Walk in only)
East Branch Library Mondays | 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. (Walk in only)
Madras COCC (541.323.8482) Every other Thursday 5 p.m. – 8 p.m. (appointments only)
Volunteer income tax preparation sites operated by AARP TaxAide and appointment numbers are listed below: For information on these sites, please visit the TaxAide locator at www.aarp.org
Bend Senior Center Mon – Fri. | 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Redmond NeighborImpact Mon./Wed | 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
La Pine *PCG *Pentecostal Church of God Mon./Thurs. | 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Warm Springs Thurs. / Fri. | 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
*Family Resource Center aka WSCAT (Warm Springs Community Action Team)
"We are also encouraging everyone to get a bank account before they file if they don't already have one," said McGuinness. "It generally takes less than three weeks to have a return directly deposited into a bank account. It would be helpful to inquire with local banks or credit unions about a free or low-cost Central Oregon account. It can help save time and money while avoiding high fees of refund anticipation loans."
United Way of Deschutes County is a "21 Cares for Kids" partner.