Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites are now open in Cameron and Willacy counties and offering free tax preparation help to households with annual income of $56,000 or less.
United Way of Southern Cameron County, the lead agency for the VITA program, said residents should take advantage of the free help to find out whether they qualify for the often overlooked Earned Income Tax Credit, which reduces taxes for low- to moderate-income workers.
The EITC is worth up to $6,431 for 2019, according to United Way, which described the tax credit as “one of the nation’s largest and most effective anti-poverty programs.” EITC lifted an estimated 10.6 million Americans, more than half of them children, out of poverty in 2018, said the agency.
VITA has more than 350 community volunteers at 21 sites in Brownsville, Harlingen, La Feria, Los Fresnos, Lyford, Port Isabel, San Benito and Raymondville. The deadline for filing personal tax returns is April 15. For those who prefer to file at home, United Way provides free self-preparation software at myfreetaxes.com for those with income under $66,000.
In addition to tax help, health care navigators are on hand at the Texas Southmost College-ITECC VITA site from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays through April 15. Also, U.S. Census volunteers will be on hand at the TSC-ITECC site from March 12 to April 15 to help residents fill out census forms online.
To find a VITA site near you in the Rio Grande Valley, call 211 or visit www.211texas.org. Residents can also find a VITA site list and schedules at unitedwayrgv.org/volunteer-income-tax-assistance-sites.
Tax filers, whether using a VITA site, home preparation software or a commercial preparer, need to have proper original documentation, including a valid photo ID, a copy of last year’s tax return, Social Security card, Social Security Number verification letter or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number for filer, spouse and any children born before Jan. 1, 2020.
Filers should also have W-2 forms from all employers and 1099 forms for all other income received, and income documentation for interest and dividend payments, gambling winnings, prizes, awards and scholarships; bank account and routing numbers for direct deposit of refund; and health insurance documentation (Form 1095-A), if the filer or anyone on tax return had coverage through the healthcare.gov or a health insurance marketplace broker.
Filers should also have expense documentation if applicable, including college tuition statements (Form 1098-T, available on online students accounts); student loan interest statement and child care expenses, including provider’s address and federal tax ID.
VITA sites do not prepare Married Filing Separately tax returns, and high school VITA sites do not prepare self-employment (Form 1099-Misc) returns.