Source: Valley Roadrunner

100 places offering free tax help

March 20, 2014

Getting something for free does not happen often for Linda McIntear. So when she heard from a neighbor last year that the International Rescue Committee in City Heights was helping file taxes for free, the Mid-City resident jumped at the opportunity.

“I am a single mom. Every penny counts,” said McIntear, the mother of a 3-year-old son who had her 2013 taxes prepared last week. “You don’t get many free deals. It helps a lot.”

That is not the only place where low-income families and individuals can have their state and federal income taxes prepared for free. In fact, there are about 100 sites across the county offering the same service, and they will continue doing it until April 15.

The services are part of the County’s annual Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) campaign, which Supervisor Greg Cox and the County Board of Supervisors launched in 2003 because too many San Diegans eligible for the federal tax credit were not claiming it.

This year, about 400 volunteers are preparing and filing people’s taxes electronically and helping them take advantage of EITC, the federal government’s largest assistance program to support low-income families.

The annual tax preparation campaign is conducted by the County Health and Human Services Agency in partnership with United Way, the Interal Revenue Service, AARP, 2-1-1 San Diego, local colleges and universities, and many other organizations.

People wishing to use the free service should call 2-1-1 to make an appointment at a site near them. In addition, college student interns and volunteers are screening families at some tax preparation locations to determine if they qualify for CalFresh benefits (formerly known as food stamps).

This tax filing season, residents have three options to get their taxes done:

• Easy – go to a site and have a volunteer prepare the tax return or

• Easier –go to a site with a computer and prepare the taxes themselves; volunteers will be there to offer assistance or

• Easiest – go to MyFreeTaxes.com to complete taxes on their own.

Established in 1975, EITC is a federal program designed to help low-income families and individuals out of poverty by allowing them to keep more of their income. The IRS estimates that between 20 and 25 percent of eligible individuals do not claim their EITC each year.

Individuals and families who worked in 2013 and earned less than $51,000 could qualify for as much as $6,044 in EITC tax credit. Residents must file a tax return to be eligible.

Last year, more than 43,500 federal and state returns were filed by EITC campaign volunteers in the San Diego region, bringing $53.9 million in state and federal tax dollars to working families and the local economy. About $10.4 million were EITC dollars.

Hilda Gonzalez, from Grant Hill, learned about the free service from co-workers four years ago and has been saving about $60 every time.

“It’s not every day that you get free things,” said Gonzalez, a single mother of a 5-year-old son who also got her 2013 taxes filed by a volunteer. “I am saving some money to spend on something else, like gas.”

The EITC Campaign is part of Live Well San Diego, the County’s ongoing initiative to improve the health and quality of life of local residents and help them to become self-sufficient.