Western Maine CA$H Coalition providing free tax help in Farmington area

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FARMINGTON — For the 12th tax season, the Western Maine CA$H Coalition will help local families with free, confidential tax preparation.

More than 200 tax returns were prepared last year by IRS-certified community volunteers, Lisa Laflin, director of the United Way of the Tri-Valley Area said Friday during a celebration at Save-A-Lot in Farmington.

Those returns amounted to more than $250,000 in state and federal income tax refunds and about $100,000 in earned tax income credits.

“It’s a great program,” said state Sen. Tom Saviello, R-Wilton. The money is returned to local working families earning less than $52,000 a year. Those refunds spent locally are a win-win, he said. 

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“A complicated tax code can be daunting,” state Rep. Lance Harvell, R-Farmington, said.

Tax preparation appointments are available now through March 22 at the Roberts Learning Center at the University of Maine at Farmington.

In addition to the tax forms, the volunteers are trained to help find tax credits, including those for child and dependent care and the earned income tax credit.

“Twenty percent of those eligible for the EITC don’t apply,” state Rep. Paul Gilbert, D-Jay, said. “There’s room to grow.”

There’s also a Maine EITC and the federal tax credit, he said. Grandparents who care for children can also qualify.

Tess Armstrong, IRS tax consultant, said the earned income tax credit is a refundable federal income tax credit for working individuals and families who earn low to moderate income. “It is one of the nation’s largest anti-poverty programs, annually lifting over 6 million people out of poverty — half of those impacted are children,” she said.

Anyone earning $52,000 or less from wages, self-employment or farming in 2013 may qualify, she said.

“Eligible workers can get their EITC only if they file a federal income tax return and specifically claim the credit, even if they are not otherwise required to file an income tax return,” she said.

The credit varies by income, family size and filing status but up to $487 is available for people without children and up to $6,044 for those with three or more qualifying children, she said.

“With the exception of some disability income, people must work to qualify for EITC,” she said. “They’ve earned it. Now they must file a tax return to claim it, and our goal is to reach every working individual who may qualify.”

United Way Volunteer Nicki Navarro passed out information to shoppers leaving the grocery store Friday and Sue Hunter made appointments for tax preparations.

The event was moved to the grocery store to expand the number of people they could reach with information about the program, Navarro said.

The Western Maine CA$H Coalition is one of 11 coalitions in the state to offer free tax assistance and asset building services to low-income workers and families.

Eight certified volunteers are ready to serve people, with about five more to be certified, Dennis O’Neil, site coordinator said.  The volunteers are from Forster Technology Center, UMF and community members.

“It’s never too late to volunteer,” he said.

To make an appointment for free tax preparation, call 778-7954 or visit http://www.cashmaine.org/locations/western/

abryant@sunjournal.com

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