FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (2/13/09)--Credit unions nationwide are helping taxpayers avoid scams by offering Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) programs.
United Way Tax Preparation volunteers work at Pacific Service CU, Fresno, Calif. Volunteers offer free tax preparation assistance for people with low- to moderate-income levels. (Photo provided by Pacific Service CU)
With tax season here, the Better Business Bureau is warning people about scams--such as tax reduction schemes, refund anticipation loans, and phishing e-mails--that can leave consumers even worse off in tough economic times (LoneStar Leaguer
Feb. 11). Credit unions in many areas are making sure this doesn’t happen:
* Pacific Service CU, Fresno, Calif., is providing access to free tax preparation assistance for people with low- to moderate-income levels. Certified volunteers from the United Way and VITA programs will assist individuals with filling out tax returns and applying for the EITC. “The VITA Program is a great opportunity for the people of the Central Valley,” said Dennis Potts, Fresno branch manager. “The volunteers are certified, the program is free, and the taxpayers will receive their federal refunds quickly.” * First CU, Chandler, Ariz., is sponsoring three VITA sites at its Chandler Corporate branch, its Devonshire/Phoenix branch, and its Glendale branch. Internal Revenue Service-trained and certified volunteers will staff all three branches. * US FCU, Burnsville, Minn., is partnering for the sixth consecutive year with AccountAbility Minnesota to provide free tax assistance for low-income individuals. The credit union also offers Express Refund Loans that allow the taxpayer to access the tax refund in one-to-two business days. The interest-free loan is paid back through the direct deposit of a member’s refund. * GHS FCU, Binghampton, N.Y., is offering free VITA to help community members save money for necessary expenses such as household and childcare. The volunteer tax preparers are students from Broome Community College, Binghampton. GHS is offering free tax preparation from Feb. 2 through April 4. * WESTconsin CU, Menomonie, Wis., and the University of Wisconsin-River Falls Student Accounting Society are offering free return preparation assistance for individuals with an annual income of less than $30,000 per year.
Other ways that credit unions are helping people with taxes include offering tax seminars. BELCO Community CU, Harrisburg, Pa., is offering two. “Tax Management” helps attendees learn about the 2008 tax-return changes and first-time homebuyer’s credit. “Strategies for Reducing Taxes and Funding IRAs” educates attendees on investment strategies for a difficult market, and evaluating retirement plans.