Business / Economy

Free tax help available

Earned Income Tax Credit can provide thousands to eligible taxpayers
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Workers may get a larger tax refund this year because of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). But to get it, they must file a tax return and claim it.

Jan. 27, marked the 11th anniversary of a nationwide effort to increase awareness about EITC and free Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) tax preparation sites. For the past five years, San Benito County Community Services & Workforce Development (CSWD) has partnered with the Internal Revenue Service for the operation of the VITA program and promoting the EITC and providing information on other refundable tax credits. This includes the American Opportunity Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit and the Additional Child Tax Credit.

In 2016, 26 million workers received more than $65.6 billion in EITC refunds at a national level. 

By the numbers in San Benito County

  • 302: Tax returns processed by VITA tax preparers
  • $332,498: Tax fefunds received by low-income residents
  • $120,384: EITC refund received by low-income residents
  • $43,585: Child tax credits received
  • $21,500:  Average adjusted gross income for those receiving VITA services
  • $1,561.02: Average amount refunded
  • 50: Tax returns completed by residents making over $53,000, on-line using www.myfreetaxes.com

The program, which started Feb. 1, features 13 tax preparer volunteers.

"Our certified tax preparers are here to help you get the maximum refund including the EITC. Our goal is to help you get it and get it right. This is money you can save or use to pay off bills, buy that car to get to work or put in a savings account. Let us help make your life a little easier," said Enrique Arreola deputy director of CSWD. “This will be our fifth year providing free tax prep through the VITA program. By securing a VITA grant, we were able to add daytime appointments on Monday and Wednesday at CSWD. Evening locations will accept walk-ins on a first come/first served basis without an appointment.“

Trino Serrano, CSWD staff and site coordinator for VITA stated, “I started with an externship in Salinas and two years later I was given the opportunity to become the site coordinator. This will be my third year working with VITA. This program has provided me with the opportunity to meet new people, make community connections, and be exposed to tax knowledge. My passion is working with the public and through the VITA program, I have had a chance to develop and work on my one-on-one communication skills, working in groups, listening and definitely learning to be patient when it comes to working with the public. It's putting the Community Action Board’s vision into practice: 'Ending Poverty by Empowering People.'”

When asked why he volunteers, Jorge Ramirez, stated, “I decided to become a VITA volunteer because I always want to better myself and learn new things. Since I’ve been helping the Community FoodBank for 22 years, I’ve found pleasure helping others and I always like to give back.”

People who worked last year and had income of less than $53,505, can check their eligibility for EITC, which can provide up to a $6,269 refund when a person files a return and have qualifying children. Workers without a qualifying child could be eligible for a smaller credit up to $506. On average, EITC adds $2,400 to refunds.

It is important to continue to promote the EITC for several reasons: One-third of the EITC population changes each year. The IRS estimates that four out of five workers claim the EITC they earned. This leaves billions of dollars on the table each year. We want to get the word out to those who are eligible to file a tax return even if they don’t owe any tax to claim the EITC. It’s money workers can use for groceries, rent, utilities and other bills. To be eligible, you must have earned income or certain disability income. This means you must have income from working for someone or working for yourself.

Let us help you get it and get it right. Visit our free tax preparation site at one of the following locations:

  • Spanish language assistance is also available.
  • No appointment is necessary at some locations.
  • Returns are completed on a first come, first served basis.

For further program information, or to schedule an appointment, please call Trino Serrano (831) 637-9293 or​ e-mail jserrano@cosb.us.

Bring the following to make sure our volunteers get you the right amount of credit you deserve:

  • A valid driver's license or other photo ID card
  • Social security cards, a social security number verification letter for all persons listed on the return
  • Birth dates for all persons listed on return
  • All income statements: Forms W-2 and 1099, Social Security, unemployment, and other statements, such as pensions, stocks, interest and any documents showing taxes withheld
  • All records of expenses, such as tuition, mortgage interest, or real estate taxes
  • Copies of last year's state and federal tax returns, if available
  • Bank routing numbers and account numbers to direct deposit any refund
  • Dependent child care information: name and address of who you paid and either the caretaker's SSN or other tax identification number
  • If you purchased coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace, Form 1095-A, Health Insurance Marketplace Statement
  • Both spouses to sign forms to e-file a joint tax return

Community Services Workforce Development