Free tax assistance availablePublished 4:16pm Thursday, December 31, 2009
By AARON MUELLER
According to the Michigan League for Human Services, one in every seven Michigan residents lives in poverty.
And for those low-income families, a seemingly small act of kindness can go a long way.
Just ask Kimberly Lee Brown.
Brown, an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) worker, has been instrumental in the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) project that offers free tax assistance to low-income families in Cass County.
“You wouldn’t believe how thankful people are just to get that money back they have waited all year for,” she said. “When we tell them it won’t cost them one dime, some of them actually get tears in their eyes. It’s the hardest of times right now. People don’t have money to pay for H&R Block.”
The program helped more than 100 people in Cass County in 2009, and Brown hopes to reach 200 families this tax season. Volunteers helped complete 1,461 federal tax refunds in Cass, Berrien and VanBuren counties in 2009.
The program, which is supervised by the Southwest Community Action Agency and sponsored by the Human Service Coordination Council, depends heavily on volunteers to help with the tax preparation.
Brown says she currently has two volunteers on board but needs at least five more to help accomplish the goal of helping 200 families.
Tax preparing volunteers need to pass a basic test to certify them to prepare taxes for the IRS.
For those interested in volunteering, free training will be provided at the Cass District Library on the following dates: Jan. 9, 16, 23 and 30. Volunteers may also complete the training and testing online at www.irs.gov/app/vita/index.html.
Tax preparation dates are: Feb. 4, 6, 9, 11, 13, 16, 18, 20, 23, 25 and 27; March 4, 6, 11, 18, 20, 25 and April 1, 3, 8, 15. While appointments can be made, walk-ins are welcome.
Brown said helping with the program has been very rewarding.
“We get people that come in and they need that income to stop them from losing their house and their cars,” she said. “It’s worthwhile.”
For more information on how to get involved, contact Kim Brown at (269) 849-5387. For information about the tax preparations, call (800) 310-5454 or visit www.smcaa.com.