April 18, this year’s deadline for taxpayers to file their federal income tax returns, is coming up fast, though help preparing those returns is still available to those who need it.
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program began providing tax help at schools and other sites around Cameron County in January. The program offers free assistance for households with incomes of $54,000 or less in preparing tax returns and taking advantage of tax credits.
Three VITA sites will provide assistance through April 18: The ITEC Center, Rm. F-6, at 301 Mexico Blvd.; Community Development Corporation of Brownsville, 901 E. Levee St.; and in Harlingen, La Hacienda Casitas, 3567 W. Business 83.
Keren Arista, financial stability coordinator for the United Way of Southern Cameron County, which leads the VITA coalition, said the three sites will be open every day except Sundays through April 18.
Walk-ins are welcome at ITEC, though it’s a good idea to call to make an appointment to ensure you’ll be seen, Arista said. The number is (956) 295-3761.
Appointments are required at CDCB and La Hacienda Casitas. To make an appointment, call (956) 541-4955.
Those with household incomes of $62,000 a year or less who don’t get their returns prepared by April 18 can still do them online at www.myfreetaxes.com.
Arista said the VITA sites typically see a spike in clients shortly before the deadline.
“It picks up the last two weeks before taxes are due,” she said. “That’s when people remember, ‘Oh yeah, I’ve got to get this done.’”
During the past 12 years, VITA’s volunteer tax preparers have helped more than 4,000 families claim more than $3.6 million in Earned Income Tax Credits. Arista said a growing number of clients use VITA’s services each year.
“It looks like we’ll serve more people this year than last year,” she said. “We had a 7 percent growth goal this year, and we’re on track to be right at that.”
Arista said the number of clients the program can help depends on how many volunteers sign up. VITA can always use more volunteers, who are required to receive IRS certification and training.
“We always have more volunteers start the program than finish because it’s pretty challenging,” she said. “The volunteers put a lot into it.”