If you earned less than $52,000 in 2013, filing your taxes this spring can be a breeze.
Local groups have teamed up to provide free tax assistance this spring, beginning with a tax season kickoff event on Saturday.
IRS-certified volunteers and other resources will be available from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Lewis & Clark Library to prepare and electronically file taxes and answer other tax-related questions. Walk-ins are welcome.
Organizers said the free help aims to ensure local residents with low to moderate income receive the tax credits or refunds for which they may qualify.
They especially hope to reach out to individuals who are not required to file but could be eligible to receive a refund.
“The message we really want to get across is if you’re really unsure if it would be to your advantage to file, come and see us,” said Carin McClain, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program manager for Montana Credit Unions for Community Development.
Last year, more than 800 tax returns were filed in the Helena area through the free programs and resulted in refunds totaling around $910,000, according to data provided by the United Way of the Lewis and Clark Area.
“For those folks, tax season is actually a happy time of year,” marketing specialist Amanda Burkhart said.
The number of individuals using the free service has risen substantially since local groups, including Montana credit unions, AARP, Tax Help Montana and others, began coordinating efforts several years ago, Burkhart said.
Burkhart said it’s important that residents are able to take advantage of the many tax credits available to them, from the earned income tax credit to Montana’s elderly homeowner/renter credit.
“There’s so many credits for low-income folks, we need to make sure in Helena they get that,” she said.
McClain said each tax help volunteer undergoes professional tax training every year. A second volunteer also reviews every return that is prepared.
The returns are filed electronically, so refunds are received quickly, she added.
Walk-ins to the Saturday event should bring all income tax forms, photo identification, Social Security card and a copy of their 2012 tax return, if available.
McClain said even individuals who aren’t ready to file their taxes yet can still meet with a volunteer to have questions answered and get connected with resources to file later.
A tax law expert will also be available, as well as a health insurance navigator who can answer questions about the Affordable Care Act.
Volunteers will continue to provide free filing help through April 14 at locations such as Good Samaritan Thrift Store, Helena Senior Center and Helena Community Credit Union. For a full list of locations, including times and contact information, visit www.montanafreefile.org.
A two-day clinic will also be held in East Helena at the United Methodist Church on Feb. 18 and 19. Call Tax Help Montana at 800-823-1323 to make an appointment.