MADISON, Wis. (1/29/10)--The deadline to file taxes this year without penalty is April 15, and credit unions nationwide are ready to help their members with free tax preparation programs. Many credit unions--like Truliant FCU, Winston-Salem, N.C.--will offer services through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. Last year, Truliant helped more than 180 people garner $300,000 in tax refunds (dBusiness News Jan. 20). Truliant staff are working with the Forsyth Working Families Partnership to offer free services through VITA to working families who make $48,000 or less in annual income. VITA started a partnership with local communities to help families receive the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), the newspaper said. AmeriChoice FCU, Mechanicsburg, Pa., has partnered with the Community Action Commission to provide free tax assistance to low-income families in Harrisburg, Pa. Starting Feb. 5 and running through April, the credit union will offer services every Friday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. (Life is a Highway Jan. 27). State Employees’ CU (SECU), Raleigh, N.C. is working to ensure North Carolinians take advantage of the EITC. One in four qualifying taxpayers don’t claim the EITC, the credit union said. SECU has distributed more than 70,000 fliers in 226 branch locations about the EITC. It also has educated members at state agencies and in schools through educational materials and presentations to increase EITC awareness. Credit union member newsletters and SECU’s website also contain information about EITC. In the last two years, SECU has helped taxpayers claim $47 million in tax refunds and $24 million in tax credits like EITC. In early February, several Wisconsin credit unions, in partnership with the Internal Revenue Service, American Association of Retired Persons and the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, will offer free tax preparation assistance program sites statewide, said the Wisconsin Credit Union League. Wisconsin credit unions also will participate in a pilot project that connects the REAL Progress and Pathways to Prosperity (RP3) program that will use employee graduates of the RP3 program to encourage tax filers to save their refund money. The graduates will provide assistance to the filers at Free Tax Preparation Assistance sites. RP3 is part of the National Credit Union Foundation’s REAL Solutions program, which aims to help low-income individuals build wealth. GHS FCU, Binghamton, N.Y., also will offer a VITA site. The volunteer tax preparers are students from a local community college. Free tax preparation will be offered Feb. 1 through March 31. So far, 126 credit unions have signed up for the “Just File It!” tax preparation program, said the Michigan Credit Union League. The “I Can E-File” Web-based tax software used through “Just File It!” is free and helps ensure credit union members receive tax credits and refunds that often are overlooked (Michigan Monitor Jan. 18).