Thursday afternoon, I learned about a free tax assistance program that not only supports the community but supports quite a few high school students who are maybe looking towards a future career of being an accountant or tax preparation specialist.
GECU, along with the Coalition for Family Economic Progress (CFEP) officially kicked-off the 2018 Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) as well as the online Free Tax Assistance (FTA) Program.
Ruby Alvarez, Executive Director for El Paso Affordable Housing (HOPE) and GECU Community Development Manager, announced the opening of this year’s tax assistance programs.
Ms. Álvarez introduced the student volunteers, from the GECU partner schools, who will be assisting with tax preparation this year: America’s High School, Pebble Hills High School, Socorro High School, Canutillo High School, and Del Valle.
Last year the VITA program brought in over 14.2 million dollars in refunds by assisting over 8,000 tax returns. Not only did they provide the tax filing services for free, but also allows individuals to speak with a trained volunteer who was able to answer any tax questions put to them.
“During tax session, we all have the same fears, ‘Am I filling out the paperwork, right? Have I included all my deductions and all my credits? Am I paying too much? Do I owe the federal government a lot of money? And, when am I going to get that big old, fat check from the IRS,’” began State Rep Cesar Blanco.
“Thanks to the partnership between GECU, the IRS, the El Paso Coalition for Family Economic Progress, and of course the dedicated volunteers, that help low- and middle-income El Pasoans prepare their income tax,” Rep Cesar Blanco said, “and make sure
that assistance is there, and at no cost, which is very important to our community.”
Last year the office of State Representative Cesar Blanco partnered with GECU to host some tax preparation services, last year it was at Jefferson High School.
“This year I am honored to announce our third one at Burges High School,” said Rep. Blanco.
Blanco also took a moment to reiterate that his office has an open-door policy to the community, reminding all that tax preparation is just one of the many ways he and his office seeks to support, and help the people of El Paso.
VITA has been assisting the community with tax preparation since 2006.
“You shouldn’t have to pay,” said Ruby Alvarez, “that you shouldn’t have to pay to receive your tax return.”
She’s right. It’s your money, why should you have to spend to receive? This program will not only help you file your taxes but will help members of our community to learn valuable skills that will follow them for the rest of their lives.
So, how do you go about getting help from VITA?
There are two ways. The first way is by visiting them in person. Click here for a list of locations, dates, and times, throughout El Paso. Next, make sure you have the following paperwork with you when you go:
Original and current proof of identification (photo ID) for you and your spouse (VITA is unable to file taxes for married couples filing separately)
Original Social Security cards for you, your spouse and dependents, or a Social Security number verification letter issued by the Social Security Administration
If you do not have a Social Security number, an official Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) assignment letter may be used for you, your spouse and dependents
Official proof of foreign status if applying for an ITIN
Birth dates for you, your spouse and dependents on the tax return
Wage and earnings statements (W-2, W-2G, 1099-R, 1099-Misc. forms) from all employers
Interest and dividend statements from banks (Form 1099)
A copy of last year’s federal and state returns, if available
Proof of bank account, routing and account numbers for direct deposit
To file taxes electronically on a Married Filing Jointly tax return, both spouses must be present to sign required forms
Total paid for daycare provider and the daycare provider’s tax identifying number, such as their Social Security number or business Employer Identification Number
Forms 1095-A, B or C, Affordable Health Care Statements
Copies of income transcripts from IRS and state, if applicable
If you’re an identity-theft victim, bring your current IRS PIN letter
**Copies of Social Security cards, IDs, ITINs or previous tax returns will not be accepted.
If you would rather do it yourself, click here for a list of online services that will assist you for free January 26 th is Earned Income Tax Credit Awareness Day.
“Each year,” says Ruby Alvarez, “about ninety-six million dollars in tax refunds go unclaimed by taxpayers in the State of Texas who didn’t take advantage of the Earned Income Tax Credit.”
VITA wants to remind you that even if you haven’t earned enough to file taxes, contact them. They can look at your current taxes, as well as go back three years, to see if you qualify for a tax credit.
Don’t put off your taxes until the last minute. Visit www.FreeTaxesElPaso.org or call 211 for locations.