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Tax Season Can Be a Financial Squeeze
Various Programs Help Older Ohioans File Taxes at No Cost
April 15, Tax Day, will be here before we know it. For many, it can be confusing and overwhelming to prepare a tax return. Tax laws can be complicated and are constantly changing. How much to you have to earn before you must pay taxes? Do you have to pay taxes on your pension? What is the standard deduction for seniors? What, if any, taxes do you have to pay on your Social Security benefits? What do you have to do to receive the Credit for the Elderly or Disabled?
Various programs offer trained community volunteers to help qualifying Ohioans with free tax return preparation. They even can help consumers receive special credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), Child Tax Credit and Credit for the Elderly. Most of these programs also offer free electronic filing (e-filing). People who file their returns electronically receive their refunds in half the time compared to returns filed on paper, and even sooner if they have them deposited directly into their bank accounts.
The Ohio Benefit Bank (OBB) offers more than 4,650 trained counselors at sites in 87 of Ohio's 88 counties. Counselors help prepare and file federal and Ohio income tax returns at no cost to eligible Ohioans. Free income tax assistance also is available through an online, self-service program. Ohioans can file their federal and select state tax returns through the Benefit Bank if their household income is $57,000 or less. People who use the Benefit Bank to file their tax return can receive their tax refunds in as few as seven to 10 days by e-filing their returns and using direct deposit. Ohioans using the online, self-service program can file their taxes at any hour of the day or night.
Ohio Benefit Bank counselors also can help Ohioans check their potential eligibility for benefits such as health care coverage, home energy assistance, child care subsidies and food stamps, and help them apply. The Benefit Bank has helped more than 70,000 Ohioans access more than $123 million in tax credits and other benefits. To locate the nearest OBB site, call 1-800-648-1176.
The AARP Tax-Aide program has trained and certified volunteers at approximately 350 sites throughout the state ready to help people of low to middle income, with special attention to those age 60 and older. Sites include libraries, community centers, senior housing complexes and senior centers. This year, the Tax-Aide program is piloting a new project in selected cities. Volunteer counselors will be able to check the eligibility of clients for benefits and aid programs, and can provide benefit information and application forms. To locate a AARP Tax-Aide site near you, call toll free 1-888-227-7669.
The IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program offers free tax help to qualifying individuals (generally, those who earn $40,000 per year or less) who cannot prepare their own tax returns. The Tax Counseling for the Elderly Program provides free tax help to people age 60 and older. Call 1-800-829-1040 for information about these programs.
All of these programs need volunteers, as tax preparers, greeters, technology coordinators and communications coordinators. Call the nearest program and volunteer. You will be helping to make a real difference in your community.