Throughout the Northwest Regional Library System, members can now have their taxes done for free by volunteers trained to assist those with a gross household income of $54,000 or less.
The Yadkin County Public Library has had some form of this program for a number of years, according to Deborah Boulware, coordinator for the Elkin location. Alleghany County Library has had the tax assistance for about six years as has East Bend, which will not be participating this year. Elkin Public Library has only been a host for this program for three years, which is when the coalition between the NWRL, Yadkin Christian Ministries, and several local senior centers started.
“Some people quake and quiver when they think about taxes,” explained Boulware. “Some people are just not very good at filling out forms. This is something nice we can do to help people.”
Volunteers for the program are not certified public accountants, but they do receive extensive training through the IRS’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. “We have to be certified every year and take a Code of Ethics exam,” clarified Boulware. “We learn how to do intake and quality review.”
This year volunteers also learned a new computer program. Previously the TaxWise program was used, however beginning this year, VITA will use TaxSlayer. “It’ll be a learning curve for everybody,” said Boulware, who has made allowances to the preparers’ schedule because, “everything is completely different.”
Not all volunteers are preparers. Greeters welcome clients and help them make sure they are adequately prepared in order to make the best use of everyone’s time. Although it is recommended to pick up the intake form early and have it prepared before the appointment time, greeters will check the form and assist clients with difficulties as well as confirm the appropriate paperwork.
There are several forms which must be brought to an appointment including Social Security card and photo ID. Last year’s tax return, W2’s and 1099’s must be brought to an appointment as well as any childcare forms and the 1095A for those who purchased health insurance through the Market Place. People with private insurance do not need to bring an additional form. Those who have been a victim of fraud must bring the PIN number they received from the IRS.
Because volunteers are not CPAs, they are not certified to do business, clergy, farms or military taxes. The VITA program does have some specialists for military taxes, however they are in locations near military bases.
All taxes done at the libraries are electronically filed. “State will not go in until federal is received,” explained Boulware, stating, “There is no need to file Rapid Refund. They passed a law that [the IRS] will not process returns for child credit or Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) until Feb. 15.”
The EITC is the largest benefit for workers, according to the IRS. Although four out of five individuals who qualify for the EITC will file for it, many will not because they do not realize they meet the requirements.
According to the IRS, “Almost a third of those who qualify for EITC qualify for the first time this year due to changes in their marital, parental or financial status,” with many people not aware that they are eligible. (See sidebar.) Although the IRS recommends using the VITA program, individuals can go to www.irs.gov/eitc to see if they meet the requirements.
“I’m very tight with my money. If I don’t have to spend my money I don’t want to,” encouraged Boulware. “We just hope people will use the [free] service.”
To schedule an appointment at the Alleghany County Library call 336372-5573, Boonville Library call 336-367-7737, Elkin Library call 336-835-5586, King Library call 336-983-3868 or the Yadkin County Library call 336-679-8792.
“The library is so good to let us use the room,” said a grateful Boulware, who is also looking for future volunteers. “The more tax preparers I have, the more people I can help.”
Beanie Taylor can be reached at 336-258-4058 or on Twitter @TBeanieTaylor.