The ides of April are nearly upon us and if you are like many and have procrastinated, you can still get your income taxes done for free at the Bartow Church Service Center, 495 E. Summerlin St.
The CSC has offered free tax preparation services for the past five years, said Executive Director Rusty Music. So far, almost 80 people have taken advantage of the service. But, added assistant director and tax preparer Tammy Patrick, the CSC is expecting a last-minute rush on Monday and Tuesday with Tuesday being the April 15 deadline. He said they expect to file another 20 returns before the deadline on Tuesday.
“We know there are always a lot of people who put it off until the last minute because they believe they will probably owe money,” Patrick said. “But we’ll be ready to help them.”
Music added that most commercial tax preparers charge from $75 to $100 for the service the CSC and other agencies are providing for free.
The free tax service will also be available on Sunday, April 12 at HELP of Fort Meade, 121 Broadway.
The service has been offered via the CSC and a dozen other agencies across Polk County thanks to a program launched by Mosaic five years ago, Music said. He, Patrick and fellow volunteer Eileen Chandler, who all received extensive tax preparation training, can file one’s taxes either electronically or provide paper returns for those who prefer to mail their returns to the IRS.
To have one’s taxes prepared at the CSC or HELP, one must have an email address, or if a computer is available, one may self-file at MyFreeTaxes.com/Polk, according to Patrick.
For the CSC or other United Way of Central Florida agencies to file your taxes free, one must have a family income of less than $57,000 a year or an individual income of less than $28,000, Music explains.
Those who wish to avail themselves of the service should have the following information: email address and password (or the preparers can establish one for you); a photo ID of the filer and his or her spouse; Social Security cards and birth dates for both spouses and all dependents; the federal Form W-2, W-2G and/or 1099-R from all employers; interest and dividend statements from banks (Forms 1099); a copy of last year’s federal and state returns, if available; bank routing and account numbers for direct deposit and child care providers’ address and tax ID numbers.
For those who may owe money to the IRS, Patrick said users should bring a credit card to which the owed taxes will be charged, or they may file a paper return and enclose a check.
“We can do it either way,” she said.
Music said he had aspirations for upcoming years, as well as a word of advice.
“We hope a lot more people will take advantage of the service next year, Music adds, “But not wait ’til the last minute.”
Music also said they counsel people who will be receiving a tax refund to save “at least $300” to set aside for emergencies.
“We suggest they open a savings account so they’ll be somewhat prepared for life’s curves,” he said. “We know that sometimes a flat tire that can’t be fixed can cost someone their job, if they can’t get to work on time, and having that little savings can save the day.”
The CSC also offers financial literacy classes throughout the year where the basics of family budgeting are taught, along with other ways and means of managing money. It will also be adding couponing classes. The classes also include credit counseling and credit restoration assistance.
The CSC opens at 9 a.m. and normally closes at 2 p.m. but those hours may be extended to assist those with their taxes.
“But we certainly want people to come in early and get this taken care of,” said Music.
The CSC is located at 495 E. Summerlin St., Bartow. The phone number is 863-533-5822.