United Way VITA program offers free tax services

FRESNO, California (KFSN) -- If you make less than $60,000 per year, you could get your taxes for free.

The deadline to file your 2016 tax forms is fast approaching.

This year there are two earned income tax credits, one federal and one state. Last year, the governor's office says around two billion dollars of state and federal tax credits went unclaimed.

If you need help with your taxes, non profit United Way based in Southeast Fresno, has a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA). VITA helps around 8-thousand households in Fresno and Madera County, to file every year.

United Way Fresno Madera County CEO Lindsey Callahan says many low income families don't file because they dont have to based on income or because they think they cant afford to. She says those families often qualify for the most amount of money in return.

Anyone who makes less than $60,000 per year is eligible to get their taxes done for free through their service.

Common mistakes to avoid include filing status errors, missing or inaccurate social security numbers, not signing the forms and even misspelled names.

There are several VITA locations throughout Fresno and Madera counties.


Pacific Service CR Union Vita: 102 E Nees Ave Fresno, 93720
Open Saturdays 9am - 1pm through April 8th

St Rest Baptist Church VITA
Open Tuesdays & Thursdays 4pm - 7pm through April 13th

United Way Sparkpoint VITA
Open Fridays 4pm - 7pm & Saturdays 9am - 1pm Through April 15th

Westside Church of God VITA
Open Wednesdays 4pm - 7pm through April 8th

Open Saturdays 9am - 1pm through April 8th

Jefferson NRC VITA
Open Saturdays 9am - 1pm through April 8th

Fresno State University

By Appointment Call: 559-825-6705

Central California Legal Services
Open Monday - Friday 8:30am - 12pm and 1pm - 4:30 pm through April 18th

Come Prepared with Your Documents

[]Photo ID/ Driver License or State ID

[]Social Security Number cards or Individual Identification Number letter for ALL members of your family

[]If married, spouse must be present

[]Prior year's tax return (2015)

[]Income documents: W-2s for all jobs held in 2016, W-2 G and 1099-G, 1099-R, 1099-SSA, 1099-INT, 1099-DIV

[]1098-T and education expense documents

[]1095-A (Covered California), 1095-B (from health insurance
company) or 1095-C (from your employer)

[]Self-Employed: all business income & expenses

[]To itemize deductions: medical receipts, tax statements (real estate taxes and DMV), charitable donations & home mortgage statements (forms 1098)

[]Routing and checking account numbers

[]Child care provider information

[]California Renters Credit: landlord's name, address and phone number


Five Tips on Whether to File a 2016 Tax Return

Most people file a tax return because they have to. Even if a taxpayer doesn't have to file, there are times they should. They may be eligible for a tax refund and not know it.

Here are five tips on whether to file a tax return:

1. General Filing Rules. In most cases, income, filing status and age determine if a taxpayer must file a tax return. Other rules may apply if the taxpayer is self-employed or a dependent of another person. For example, if a taxpayer is single and under age 65, they must file if their income was at least $10,350. There are other instances when a taxpayer must file.

2. Tax Withheld or Paid. Did the taxpayer's employer withhold federal income tax from their pay? Did the taxpayer make estimated tax payments? Did they overpay last year and have it applied to this year's tax? If the answer is "yes" to any of these questions, they could be due a refund. They have to file a tax return to get it.

3. Earned Income Tax Credit. A taxpayer who worked and earned less than $53,505 last year could receive the EITC as a tax refund. They must qualify and may do so with or without a qualifying child. They may be eligible for up to $6,269.

4. Additional Child Tax Credit. Did the taxpayer have at least one child that qualifies for the Child Tax Credit? If they do not qualify for the full credit amount, they may be eligible for the Additional Child Tax Credit.

5. American Opportunity Tax Credit. To claim AOTC the taxpayer, their spouse or their dependent must have been a student enrolled at least half time for one academic period to qualify. The credit is available for four years of post-secondary education. It can be worth up to $2,500 per eligible student. Even if the taxpayer doesn't owe any taxes, they may still qualify.


Nine Common Filing Errors to Avoid:

The IRS encourages taxpayers to file an accurate tax return. If a taxpayer makes an error on their return, it will likely take longer for the IRS to process it. This could delay a refund. Avoid many common errors by filing electronically. IRS e-file is the most accurate way to file a tax return.

Here are nine common errors to avoid when preparing a tax return:

1. Missing or Inaccurate Social Security Numbers. Be sure to enter each SSN on a tax return exactly as printed on the Social Security card.

2. Misspelled Names. Spell all names listed on a tax return exactly as listed on that individual's Social Security card.

3. Filing Status Errors. Some people claim the wrong filing status, such as Head of Household instead of Single.

4. Math Mistakes. Math errors are common. They range from simple addition and subtraction to more complex items. Transactions like figuring the taxable portion of a pension, IRA distribution or Social Security benefits are more difficult and result in more errors. Taxpayers should always double check their math. Better yet, tax preparation software does it automatically, so file electronically.

5. Errors in Figuring Tax Credits or Deductions. Filers can make mistakes figuring their Child and Dependent Care Credit, the standard deduction and other items. Taxpayers need to follow the instructions carefully. For example, if a taxpayer is age 65 or older, or blind, they should be sure to claim the correct, higher standard deduction.

6. Incorrect Bank Account Numbers. The IRS strongly urges all taxpayers who have a refund due to choose direct deposit. It's easy and convenient. Be careful to use the right routing and account numbers on the tax return. The fastest and safest way to get a refund is to combine e-file with direct deposit.

7. Forms Not Signed. An unsigned tax return is like an unsigned check - it's not valid. Both spouses must sign a joint return. Taxpayers can avoid this error by filing their return electronically. Sign an e-filed tax return digitally before sending it to the IRS.

8. Electronic Filing PIN Errors. When e-filing, the taxpayer signs and validates the tax return electronically with a prior-year Self-Select Personal Identification Number. If they do not have or know their PIN, they should enter the Adjusted Gross Income from their 2015 tax return originally filed with the IRS. Taxpayers should keep a copy of their tax return.

Beginning in 2017, taxpayers using a software product for the first time may need their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) amount from their prior-year tax return to verify their identity.

9. Filing with an expired ITIN. A tax return filed with an expired Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) will be processed and treated as timely filed, but will be processed without any exemptions or credits claimed. Taxpayers will receive a notice from the IRS explaining that an ITIN must be current before any refund is paid. Once the ITIN is renewed, exemptions and credits are processed and any allowed refund paid.
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