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Hey, hey! It's the tax man!

Tis the season of tax returns. We see advertising that promises instant refunds – now called refund anticipation loans. Other ads promise to find hidden credits. But the Thomas Jefferson Area EITC Coalition offers free tax preparation for low to moderate income individuals and families earning up to about $42,000 in 2008. If you qualify, you don’t need to pay someone to prepare your taxes and essentially take out a high interest loan on your own money. Refunds can be received in 7 to 10 days. We’ll even help you set up a savings account to direct deposit the refund if you don’t have a bank account. (It is surprising how many people are “unbanked”).

Our motto is Earn it. Keep it. Save it. EITC stands for Earned Income Tax Credit, and last year local residents received credits totaling more than $190,000. But there are still an estimated 1,600 local people who probably could have received these credits if they had known about them.

So this year, the coalition stepped up our publicity and outreach efforts, making up flyers and doorknob hangers that were distributed in low-income neighborhoods and through nonprofit agencies. We also held a meeting for local employers – 70 showed up! – to share information that they could pass along to their employees.

Our efforts have paid off. In just four of the free tax preparation sites, over 300 returns have already been completed. Last year 250 were done for the whole season! The United Way has been fielding all the phone calls – 460 so far, and that does not include all the Spanish speaking calls that our bilingual wonder woman, Martha Trujillo, has taken.

Families have received from $0 to $4,000 in credits, plus Child Tax Credits. This means they have money that they earned back in their pockets, stimulating their personal economies. (One immigrant family was confused about the way taxes are withheld from paychecks in this country and we helped them fill out a new W-4 form to give to their employer.)

Download our flyer or call us today at 434-972-1703 to see if you or someone you know qualifies for free tax preparation at sites in Charlottesville, Albemarle, Nelson and Fluvanna Counties. You earned it, you should keep it.

Posted by Reimi Okuyama, ETIC Coordinator

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