NEWS

Volunteers gearing up for free tax preparation

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald
JEDI's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program volunteers, left to right, Frank LaSalvia, Stephane Posson, Jeff Palmer, Bruce Clark, Lucille Cook, Betsy Emry, Barbara Rose, and Kathy Langford.

Jefferson Economic Development Institute says four new and seven returning volunteers are getting ready to provide free tax preparation through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.

Their 36-hour training includes learning tax law and tax software. It is followed by a “comprehensive exam” that must be passed, according to JEDI.

As an IRS program, “individuals who use the VITA program can be confident that their Civil Rights and the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights will be protected and that they will receive the best quality service that can be provided within the scope of the program,” according to a JEDI press release.

The mission of the VITA Program is to provide free tax preparation for low- to middle income taxpayers and seniors with basic returns. The service is intended to assist taxpayers with simple returns who cannot afford to see a paid preparer.

Taxpayers with an income of $58,000 or less are eligible for the free tax preparation service.

“I have always felt that it was a travesty for individuals to have to pay to get their refunds back especially if it was simply due to excess withholdings,” states Paj Kane, the VITA Site Coordinator. “We want to help low income individuals and families eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit to get their refunds without having to pay a fee.”

JEDI says its VITA site is using a new model for the free tax preparation program this season.

Services will be offered on Friday afternoons beginning Jan. 22 on a drop-in basis at JEDI’s Mount Shasta office, 205 Chestnut Street. Tax documents can be dropped off between 1 and 4 p.m. If the return is within the scope of the program and all the necessary documents are in hand, an interview with a certified VITA volunteer will be the next step.

The return will be completed by a Certified Volunteer during the following week and will be ready for review and pick up the following Friday morning.

The taxpayer will have a “quality review” meeting at that time with another certified volunteer, the return will be printed for the taxpayer and electronically filed, and all the documents returned.

Necessary documents

Taxpayers must have all the following necessary documents in hand when they come to have their taxes prepared, and both spouse must be present for married filing joint:

• All forms W2 and 1099

• Social Security cards or Individual Taxpayer Identification notices/cards for you, your spouse and/or dependents

• Proof of Identification for yourself and/or your spouse

• Birth dates for you, spouse and or dependents on the return

• A copy of last year’s tax return

• If applicable, information for all itemized deductions – medical and dental, taxes paid, home mortgage interest paid, gifts to charity, job expenses, and any miscellaneous deductions.

• Information for all credits – total paid to day care provider and their tax ID number, education expenses and Form 1098T, qualified retirement savings contributions, and information on qualified energy efficiency improvements.

• Documentation of student loan interest paid – 1098 E

• Proof of account for direct deposit of refund (voided check with routing and account number)

• Forms 1095-A, B or C (ACA Statements)

• For prior year returns, copies of income transcripts from IRS (and state, if applicable)

“It is very important for the community to understand this new process. Because of the limited funding of the program for 2016, it will be necessary to focus our services to the most in need,” Kane states in the press release.

She said “limited facilitated self-assistance” will also be provided to taxpayers outside the VITA scope to help prepare their own return using www.myfreetaxes.com, a service that is available to taxpayers with incomes below $60,000 and is free for federal and state returns.

To find out more about the JEDI VITA Service, go to the JEDI website at www.e-jedi.org. You can call the tax information line at 530-926-6670 ext. 15 or 888-926-6670 ext. 15, or send email to Paj Kane: pkane@e-jedi.org.