July 18, 2018 | ° F

Tax program provides more relief to residents

Mayor James C. Cahill joined volunteers to promote a tax assistance program open to University students and residents.

People who earned less than $39,000 last year are eligible to have their taxes done by trained volunteers through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program, Cahill said.

"The whole goal [of VITA] is that people get as large of a tax return as possible," said city spokesman Bill Bray.

Emanuel Community Development Corporation has coordinated VITA locations in the New Brunswick area for the past three years. Patty Fox, the executive director of the ECDC, said the Emmanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church founded the group in 2004 to educate low-income individuals about making the most of their money.

Last year, the ECDC volunteers including members of Beta Alpha Psi, the accounting and finance honors fraternity at the University, and they helped over 200 people file their taxes. Cahill said participants received an average of over $1,000.

"Who can't use that kind of money?" Cahill said. "In addition, volunteers can also prepare your application for the earned tax income credit which will put thousands of extra dollars in you pocket as well."

The earned income tax credit is a refundable credit for people who work, according to the IRS Web site. Individuals who earn less than $12,590 can receive up to $428 and families with two children can receive up to $4,700 if they earn less than $39,783.

"A lot of people don't know they're eligible," Fox said. "You only have to have worked one day in the last year to be eligible."

She said even if an individual makes less than the lowest amount a person is required to file, they are still eligible for the credit.

"Beta Alpha Psi is probably more critical to our success than I think they even realize," Fox said. "They are providing us with a volume of volunteers that we've never had before."

Fox said Beta Alpha Psi has provided ECDC with 50 volunteers. Because of the increased number of volunteers, she said the ECDC's goal is 500 tax refunds.

The fraternity is meant to help students in the business school in social and professional networking and development. Students must meet GPA and community service requirements.

"I've been working to coordinate our VITA program with the larger Emanuel coalition," Faiz said.

Faiz said ECDC representatives held a two-day training course for volunteers in tax law and the online tax software Saturday and Sunday. Volunteers will also be required to take a test to be certified volunteers.

Beta Alpha Psi will be helping people with their taxes at the New Brunswick Free Library every Saturday until April 12. Individuals who sign up for assistance are asked to bring their W-2 forms, Social Security cards, Social Security forms for any people they will list as dependent, all tax forms sent by the government, a record of expenses and, if possible, a copy of their tax returns from last year, according to a press release.

In addition to assisting people file their taxes, the ECDC volunteers can also assist people in getting an Individual Tax Income Number, Fox said. AN ITIN is for undocumented individuals or non-resident aliens, who wish to file their taxes.

ECDC has coordinated volunteers for five locations in the city. Magyar Bank, Washington Mutual, Elijah's Promise, Middlesex Community College and the New Brunswick Free Library are all hosting the program.

Cahill said the city is a special place because of the racial, cultural and economic diversity.

"We wrap our arms around any and all in the city, including those who are not as well off as others, " Cahill said.

Cahill said the program is good for University students, who can take advantage of this program. He said the tax refunds received also benefit the economy of New Brunswick because it helps keep local dollars local.

"So do yourself a favor. Get what you deserve," Cahill said.

Michelle Cerone

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