united way of greater chattanooga

JUST SAY NO TO RALS WITH FREE TAX SERVICE!

February 2nd, 2011

You earned your money, so keep as much as you can!  Don't get caught up in so-called "Refund Anticipation Loans" (RALs) that eat up your tax return and put you at risk!

Get FREEACCURATE TAX SERVICE and QUICK RETURNS, now available to Chattanoogans who qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).  This free service is available through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA), a partnership between the Urban League, the IRS, and Tennessee Saves.

So why not get an RAL?

When you get a refund anticipation loan, it will cost you a big chunk of your tax refund! RALs are secured by and repaid from your expected income tax refund, and because the loans are short term, the annualized interest rates are very high.  Also, a refund anticipation loan is risky because it must be repaid even if your refund is deniedless than expected, or frozen. If you can't pay back the RAL for any reason, the lender may send your account to a debt collector.

VITA EITC program benefits for you:

  • CONVENIENT: After first calling 3-1-1 to schedule an appointment, you can visit a conveniently located, free tax preparation site. Call the City of Chattanooga's 3-1-1 for an appointment and more information. 
  • EASY AND ACCURATE: Have your taxes completed and filed by IRS certified tax volunteers.
  • FREE AND FAST: Get your money fast, without paying for it! You can even have your tax refund electronically deposited in up to three accounts*.

CLICK HERE for the most frequently asked questions about EITC. 

Items to bring with you to complete your return:*

  • Photo identification
  • Social Security Cards for the Taxpayer, their spouse and dependents, if applicable
  • Birth Dates for primary, secondary and dependents on the tax return
  • A copy of last year's Federal and State returns if available
  • Wage and earning statement(s) Form W-2, W-2G, 1099-R, from all employers
  • Interest and dividend statements from banks (Forms 1099)
  • Current year's tax package, if you received one
  • Other relevant information about income and expenses
  • Total Amount Paid for Day Care
  • Day Care providers Identifying number

To file taxes electronically on a married filing joint tax return, both spouses must be present to sign the required forms.

How YOU can help. Take action:

  • Find free tax preparation and filing services locally  provided free by volunteer tax preparers if you earn less than $49,000/year. Dial the City of Chattanooga at 3-1-1.
  • Join the conversation using #freetaxes or #eitc, follow @MyFreeTaxes, and spread the word with your networks. Families can earn up to $5,657 in Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), plus, save tax prep and filing costs!
  • Estimate how much money you could get back from the EITC:
    • You can download an Android or iPhone mobile app to calculate EITC benefits or view the tool from any mobile device here: http://bit.ly/mytaxbackapp
    • Use this Facebook App: http://apps.facebook.com/mytaxback/
    • Text EITC, M or S (M if Married or S if Single), Number of Dependents, How much you earned in 2010 and send to 91011. (Example: eitc s 2 12000)

United Way’s Work Towards Financial Stability For Our Community:
United Way is committed to improving financial stability. Part of this includes helping hardworking people obtain free tax preparation and filing services as well as qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and other credits. Last year, this helped return almost $2 billion in total tax refunds nationwide to individuals and families, who often used those dollars to pay bills and purchase necessities, such as food and clothing. It also saved people nearly $200 million in paid tax preparer fees.

*Checking, savings and IRA account numbers (in your name), along with your bank's routing numbers, if you wish to have your tax refund electronically deposited.

 Frequently Asked Questions about VITA free income tax preparation:

What's the catch? There is no catch! This is really a FREE service of the Urban League, the IRS, Tennessee Saves and other community partners.

When can I file my taxes with the VITA program? Call NOW! ALL sites will close between April 1 and April 15th.

Do I need to make an appointment? It depends on which site you visit. Some require appointments, others ask that you just walk in.

Who will complete my return? All sites are staffed by volunteers that have been trained and certfiied by the IRS. Many of them have been doing taxes for many years. The Chattanooga VITA program has an error rate of less than 1% (.2%)

Can the VITA program do a tax return older than 2010? No. The VITA program will only complete returns from the current tax year. Please call the local IRS office at 855-6460 for information about completing prior years returns.

Do I make too much money to participate in this service? As long as you make less than $49,000 a year you can have your taxes completed at a VITA site. VITA is specifically for low- to moderate- income families and individuals.

How long does it take to get my refund? It will take from 7 to 14 days for you to get your refund if you choose to have it directly deposited into an account. If you decide to have a check mailed to you, it may take a bit longer. If you have not received it within 30 days, please visit the site where you had your return completed to ask about the delay or call the Urban League at 756-1762.

Is my information confidential? Yes, your information will be held on password protected computers for the duration of the program, then deleted. All remaining documents will be forwarded to the IRS.

Can I claim a really, really distant relative on my return if they lived with me for the summer? We are not authroized to give advice about completing specific returns; however, you can call the local IRS office at 855-6460 and they will answer any questions you may have.

One of the VITA sites messed up my taxes! Call 3-1-1 for a referral to someone who can fix the problem for you.

Can VITA sites do direct deposit? Yes. The VITA sites can deposit your refund directly into your checking or savings account. You will need to bring in your account numbers and the routing numbers for your financial institution. If you don't have a checking or savings account, your VITA volunteer can give you a voucher for a free checking or savings account from Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union.

I don't trust direct deposit. Can I get a check? Yes. The VITA volunteer will just ask you for your current mailing address so that you can receive your check.

Just what is EITC, anyway? EITC is the Earned Income Tax Credit. The U.S. EITC is a refundable tax credit that supplements the earning of low- and moderate- income workers. Your VITA volunteer will let you know if you qualify for the credit.

I live in Georgia, but work in Tennessee. Can VITA do my taxes? Yes. The VITA sites are set up to complete Georgia Income Taxes, but it's best to visit or call the site prior to your appointment to make sure that the volunteers there have downloaded the software patches necessary to complete Georgia returns.

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