SALISBURY, MD— Need help with your taxes but can’t afford to pay for it? For the third year in a row, SHORE UP! Inc., a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site, offers free preparation of both state and federal income tax returns and free e-filing for families and individuals. To qualify, persons must have a total household income for 2009 under $49,000/yr.
Taxes are done by appointment only, through April 12. There are tax preparation sites in both Wicomico and Somerset counties.
To make an appointment and find out what to bring, call 410-749-1142, ext. 330 or 356, weekdays.
In Wicomico County, taxes will be done at the SHORE UP! facility at 510 Snow Hill Road, Salisbury, MD. Hours for tax-preparation appointments in Salisbury are Mondays and Wednesdays, 4:30-8 pm, and Saturdays, 10 am-2 pm.
In Somerset County, taxes will be done at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES), on the second floor of the Student Development Center, Princess Anne, MD.
Hours for tax-preparation appointments in Princess Anne are Tuesdays 9:30 am-2 pm and Thursdays 4-8 pm.
Qualifying individuals do not have to go to the office in their county of residence. Also, qualifying individuals do not need to be from Wicomico County or Somerset County; residents of other Maryland counties are welcome. Even qualifying persons from other states are welcome to participate; state tax returns for Delaware and Virginia can be done.
One goal of the project is to help participants get their tax returns as quickly as possible.
To do this, taxes will be electronically filed (e-filed) whenever possible. The VITA Tax Project is now in its third year. Over the last 2 years, 2,495 returns have been prepared; 97 % of these were e-filed.
Another objective of the VITA Tax Project is to help participants learn about financial matters. Therefore, in addition to having their taxes prepared, participants will have the opportunity to receive basic financial education on topics such as budgeting and saving.
It is hoped that those who get a refund will be able to save at least some of it. There is also an opportunity to have part of their refund deposited into a Savings Bond.
Freddy L. Mitchell, SHORE UP! Inc.’s Executive Director, states, “We are getting a tremendous number of calls from people to make appointments to have their taxes done. In this tough economy, individuals need tax preparation at no cost, and they need to get back as much money as they can, quickly. SHORE UP!’s VITA Tax Project helps meet these needs and helps individuals and families move toward self-sufficiency.”
The VITA Tax Project also seeks to help persons take advantage of all the tax credits to which they are entitled. For example, some individuals do not know about the Earned Income Credit (EIC), a tax benefit for people who work. Many working families could get money back through this credit simply by filing taxes, and it does not affect food stamps, Medicaid, public housing benefits, cash assistance or SSI. For instance, according to the IRS, a household could qualify for the EIC if it were raising three children in 2009 and the married workers together earned less than $48,279. SHORE UP!’s tax preparers will also help individuals who qualify to take advantage of the Child Tax Credit, which can be up to $1,000 for each qualifying child. Likewise, preparers will help eligible customers take advantage of new tax credits this year, such as for the purchase of a new vehicle or a home, or for expenses related to home energy or education.
Tax returns will be prepared primarily by volunteers, all of whom are required to take training and become IRS certified before they can do taxes. Many volunteers are business students from local colleges, such as Salisbury University, UMES and Wor-Wic Community College.
Some of these students will be able to get internship or work-experience credit for helping prepare taxes. Students will also participate in the financial education component of the project. Volunteers are still needed. Not all volunteers prepare taxes; some help schedule appointments, prepare initial paperwork for participants, check participants in, etc.
SHORE UP! Inc. has received funding for the VITA Tax Project from the Rural Maryland Council, PNC Bank, Delmarva Power, the Maryland CASH (Creating Assets, Savings and Hope) Campaign and the Internal Revenue Service. In addition, UMES is providing office space for the Somerset County tax site, at no charge.
Financial donations and donations of office supplies, printers or laptops are welcome. To make a donation, volunteer or for more information about the VITA Tax Project, please call 410-749-1142, weekdays.