Tax prep program aims at savings

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LEWISTON – This year’s low-income tax preparation program will focus on holding onto money as much as getting it.

Tax preparers will be able to pull credit reports for low-income tax filers, help them set up a savings account and direct any tax refunds into that account as part of this year’s “Take the Money, You Earned It” program.

“One of our goals this year to is focus on asset building for people that have never thought about it before,” said volunteer Christine Adler, member of the Lewiston-Auburn Tax Credit Awareness Coalition and a volunteer tax preparer. “We want them to get into that process of moving themselves financially ahead.”

Volunteers will be on hand at sites around Lewiston, beginning Jan. 22 to help low- and moderate-income residents prepare their taxes and apply for the Federal Earned Income Tax Credit program. That’s a federal benefit for certain low- and moderate-income workers that can reduce income taxes by up to $4,400.

A coalition of tax preparers, IRS and city of Lewiston officials began offering the program in 2004 as a way to encourage low- income residents to apply for the tax credit. It’s helped nearly 1,500 people file their taxes and saved an estimated $2.3 million in state and federal taxes.

Tax preparers helped 748 Lewiston-Auburn clients and helped get $958,000 in federal tax refunds in 2006.

The coalition is working with Maine Family Federal Credit Union to offer simple savings accounts. The company has agreed to donate $5 for each new account, according to Coastal Enterprises’ Jill Lorom. Coastal Enterprises is also offering development accounts that match dollars saved for low income people who qualify.

“In some cases, we match ever dollar they save with $3,” she said.

“Eventually, they will be able to save up to $8,000 toward the purchase of a new home.”

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