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January 23, 2007 > Free Income Tax Preparation for low to moderate income residents

Free Income Tax Preparation for low to moderate income residents

By Arnie Becker

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the California Franchise Tax Board (FTB), along with a corps of volunteers, are trying to make filing your income taxes as easy possible with a sponsored free service called Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. Going one step further, the federal government is trying to help low and moderate income families get every credit and exemption that a taxpayer is due. One of the credits for low and moderate income earners is the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), something that many families do not know they qualify for and who have no idea what is required to get the credit. They could go to a paid tax preparer such as Jackson Hewitt or H&R Block, pay upwards of $100 - $150 for a simple return, or they can go to one of the many Volunteer Income Tax Assistance sites and get their taxes done for free.

Some of the VITA sites operate on an appointment-only basis and others are available on a drop in basis.

If you're like millions of Americans, you work hard but don't earn a high income. The federal government has several resources including the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) that can help you and your family. The EITC is a tax credit for low-income workers who meet certain qualifications. If you qualify, you may pay less federal income tax, pay no tax or you could receive a refund. To help you determine if you qualify for EITC, we have listed the requirements.

You must have a valid Social Security number and you must meet certain residency and filing criteria, including following the guidelines for a qualifying child.

You must have earned income from employment or from self-employment. Your filing status cannot be married, filing separately. You must be a U.S. citizen or resident alien all year, or a nonresident alien married to a U.S. citizen or resident alien and filing a joint return. You cannot be a qualifying child of another person. If you do not have a qualifying child, you must:

- be age 25 but under 65 at the end of the year,
- live in the United States for more than half the year, and
- not qualify as a dependent of another person
- Cannot file Form 2555 or 2555-EZ (related to foreign earned income)

Earned income and adjusted gross income (AGI) must each be less than:
- $36,348 ($38,348 married filing jointly) with two or more qualifying children
- $32,001 ($34,001 married filing jointly) with one qualifying child
- $12,120 ($14,120 married filing jointly) with no qualifying children

Tax Year 2006 maximum credit:
- $4,536 with two or more qualifying children
- $2,747 with one qualifying child
- $412 with no qualifying children
Investment or passive income must be $2,800 or less for the year

Other credits you may qualify for are the Child Tax Credit, the child care credit, credit for college level educational expenses and this year, and this year only, the telephone tax refund.

The cities of Fremont, Hayward and Castro Valley all have VITA sites that will be in operation from about February 1 until approximately April 15. The dates are approximate because when individual programs start and end will depend on which days of the week they prepare taxes. For example, if a site does returns on Monday and Saturday, the last day for that particular site will be April 14. If a site only does them on Monday and Wednesday then their last day will be April 11. For most sites where appointments are required you can begin making appointments February 1.

There is also a complementary tax preparation service that is provided by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) called Tax Counseling for the Elderly. Persons 50 years of age or older are eligible to use this free service. AARP has sites throughout Alameda County and for a listing of these sites go to https://locator.aarp.org/vmis/sites/tax_aide_locator.jsp. Information will be uploaded to this site on February 1. Until then the site will ask that you come back after February 1.

For more information on VITA and to locate a VITA site call (800) 829-1040. To get information on the VITA site at the Fremont Family Resource Center call (510) 574-2020. For information on the VITA site at the Community Child Care Coordinating Council call (510) 584-3120.

Hayward VITA site
Community Child Care Coordinating Council
22351 City Center Drive, second floor, Hayward
February 7 through April 11
Four Saturdays in February and Wednesday evenings
6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
(510) 584-3120

Fremont VITA site
Fremont Family Resource Center
39155 Liberty St., Fremont
February 5 through Wednesday, April 11
Mondays and Wednesdays
Tuesday, February 6 will be an extra day of tax preparation.
(510) 574-2020

Castro Valley VITA site
Kenneth C. Aitken Senior and Community Center
17800 Redwood Road, Castro Valley
February 6 - April 14
Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Fridays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Tax preparation is by appointment only.
(510) 881-6778

Milpitas VITA
Milpitas Community Library
40 N. Milpitas Blvd., Milpitas
Feb 3 - April 14
Saturdays 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
e-file only, no paper returns

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