SHORE UP! Preparing Taxes for Free - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

SHORE UP! Preparing Taxes for Free

SALISBURY, Md.— Need help with your taxes but can't afford to pay for it? SHORE UP! Inc., a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site, offers free preparation and electronic filing of both state and federal income tax returns for families and individuals whose total household income was under $51,000 in 2012.

Taxes are done by appointment only, Jan. 19-April 13, 2013 at sites in Somerset, Wicomico and Worcester counties. To make an appointment for free tax preparation and e-filing, and to find out what to bring, call (410) 749-1142 weekdays.  Below is the information specific to each county's tax-preparation site:

County and Dates of Operation

Site

Days of Operation

Hours

Wicomico

Jan. 19-April 13

SHORE UP! Inc.

510 Snow Hill Road

Salisbury, MD 21804

 

Mondays and Wednesdays

4:30-8 p.m.

Saturdays

10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Somerset

Jan. 29-April 11

Upward Bound Meeting Room

Student Development Center

University of MD Eastern Shore

Princess Anne, MD 21853

 

Tuesdays

9 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

Thursdays

3-7:30 p.m.

Worcester

February 1-March 8

Snow Hill Head Start Center

6352 Worcester Highway

Newark, MD 21841

Fridays

2-6 p.m.

Since SHORE UP! Inc. started preparing taxes for no charge in 2007, the VITA Tax Project has prepared nearly 7,700 returns that resulted in approximately $10.3 million in total refunds (federal and state combined).

In addition to tax preparation, customers will have a chance to participate in financial education workshops.

Tax returns will be prepared primarily by volunteers, all of whom are required to become IRS certified before they can do taxes. Volunteers are also needed to help schedule appointments. Anyone wishing to volunteer for the Project can call 410-749-1142.

Those wishing to have their taxes prepared need to bring the following items:  all W2 forms from all jobs worked in the last year; photo identification of the tax filer; Social Security Card (or ITIN) for each member of the family; birth date for every person claimed on the return; any other tax-related documents; and, if they have child care, the childcare provider's name, address and tax number. Each adult named on the return must be present to sign it. In addition, those wishing to use direct-deposit for a refund need to bring a voided check.

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, Somerset, or Worcester 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.

Since one of the goals of the VITA Tax Project is to help participants learn about financial matters, in addition to having their taxes prepared, participants will have the opportunity to enter a drawing to win a $500 Savings Bond, courtesy of the Maryland CASH (Creating Assets, Savings and Hope) Campaign. Participants will have several options for their refunds: direct deposit; depositing their refunds on a PNC Bank VITA prepaid debit card; or cashing their federal and/or state refunds at no charge at participating PNC Bank locations. Participants can also sign up for future financial education workshops and one-on-one financial education sessions.

Another goal of the project is to help participants get their tax returns as quickly as possible. To do this, taxes will be electronically filed whenever possible. Last year, over 1,700 returns were prepared, and 99% of these were e-filed.

SHORE UP! Executive Director Freddy Mitchell said, "We hope that qualifying individuals will take advantage of our free tax-preparation service. By e-filing, we seek to get people their refunds as quickly as possible, so that they don't feel they need to have a paid provider give them a loan on their refund until it comes in. Some providers charge very high interest rates for such loans."

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, a tax benefit for people who work. Many working families will 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. Likewise, tax preparers will help individuals take advantage of the Child Tax Credit, which can be up to $1,000 for each qualifying child under the age of 17.

Many volunteers are business students from local colleges, such as Salisbury University, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and Wor-Wic Community College. These students will have the opportunity to earn internship and/or work-experience credit for helping prepare taxes. Many of the students will also participate in the financial education component of the project.

Some student volunteers are from the Maryland Community Fellows Program, which is a partnership between the Maryland CASH Campaign, the Department of Housing and Community Development and various Community Action Agencies (CAAs) statewide. This program was formed to increase the capacity of CAA organizations (such as SHORE UP!) to offer asset building services as well as the capacity of students to deliver these services.

SHORE UP! Inc. has received some funding for the VITA Tax Project from Delmarva Power. In addition to providing volunteers, Salisbury University and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) have provided technical support in the form of laptops and printers. The Maryland CASH Campaign has also offered assistance in the forms of guidance, training and publicity.

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