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A wealth of free services available to taxpayers

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By MELODY JAMESON

For low and moderate income South County taxpayers, help this year decoding line 23 minus line 18 times factor C from chart B is close at hand. And, it’s all free.

1040-FORMFrom Riverview to Ruskin and several points in between, trained tax preparers now are scheduling no-charge week day or weekend appointments through Saturday, April 9, to help taxpayers with adjusted annual incomes under $57,000 complete and file their federal income tax forms. Individual taxpayers presenting the required documentation can receive either the paper tax forms ready for mailing or take advantage of the electronic filing option producing a faster refund, if one is due.

What’s more, taxpayers using the services also stand to win several family-sized gift cards.

For most citizens, the 2011 deadline for filing federal IRS income tax forms covering incomes earned during 2010 is Monday, April 18. Florida, which relies heavily on sales taxes, currently does not require state income taxes or reports.

Of the three stationary free tax preparation sites in South Hillsborough, United Community Church on the north side of Sun City Center is maintaining the longest schedule, according to Dee Fridella, manager of Ruskin’s South Shore Community Center. Tax form services are offered at the church Monday through Friday, from 9 AM to 4 PM., both by appointment and for walk-ins, she said. The church is located at 1501 La Jolla Avenue. The appointment telephone number during those hours is 813/633-2375.

A second SCC site is the Kings Point Clubhouse inside the gated condominium community where the free tax form help is available on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 AM to 3 PM, Fridella noted. Both appointments and walk-ins can be accommodated at this location, she added, and scheduling by telephone during the hours of operation can be handled by calling 813/938-8959.

For taxpayers unable to keep week day appointments, Saturday hours are available at the South Shore center (adjacent to the Joyce Ely Health Clinic), 201 14th Avenue S.E., in Ruskin. The hours are 9 AM to 1 PM and are intended for walk-ins only, Fridella said. Entrance to the tax preparation office is behind the main building on its south side and parking also is available behind the building.

Each of these three locations is wheel chair accessible, she added.

In addition, the mobile tax help unit fielded by the Suncoast Schools

Federal Credit Union – a large RV configured for office use – is to be set up for several days each in Riverview and Ruskin, said Cara Moore, outreach coordinator with United Way, one of several partners in the free tax help program.

The mobile unit will be open from 1 to 5 PM, on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, March 8, 9 and 10, in the Sunpoint Shopping Center parking lot, on the north side of S.R. 674 near 30th Street, Moore noted.

The following week the unit will be at the Riverview Service Center, 9598 U.S. Highway 301, on Tuesday, March 15, through Friday, March 18. The Tuesday and Thursday schedule is 1 to 5 PM while the Wednesday and Friday hours are 9 AM to 1 PM.

Appointments for tax help at either location during the March schedule can be made by contacting the credit union office at 813/621-7511, extension 87211, Moore added.

Yet another option for free assistance with tax form preparation can be accessed by anyone comfortable with computer functions, Fridella said. By answering a series of questions and following the program prompts, an individual taxpayer can create and electronically file his or her 1040EZ or standard 1040, along with any of the usual addendum forms, through www.myfreetaxes.com, she added.

Citizens using the free tax prep services must bring with them a copy of their 2009 income tax returns, social security cards and correct birth dates for all family members, all W-2 wage and tax statements for the 2010 tax year, any 1099 forms or other income statements, plus the amounts of any income not reported on statements.

Taxpayers taking deductions for mortgage interest and property taxes

will need their 1098 forms, records of other amounts to be deducted or considered qualified expenses, and the 1098-T or 1098-E forms along with amounts involved if education credits are to be claimed. And, to claim the dependent care credit, the name, address, plus tax ID or social security number of the care provider will be required.

A photo identification also is required of each adult taxpayer filing a return and both spouses must be present to sign joint returns. Additionally, those taxpayers wishing direct deposit of any refunds due need a cancelled check or bank savings account number to arrange those deposits.

Anyone needing tax help from a bi-lingual preparer, Fridella, said, should contact one of the sites in advance to make such arrangements.

Participants in the free help program also are eligible in two drawings for $300 Target Stores gift cards, Fridella noted. Four such cards will be awarded to taxpayers around the county taking part in the program, with two drawings at the end of February and two more at the end of April, she added.

The free tax assistance program is a cooperative effort involving, in addition to United Way, Suncoast Schools Credit Union, Hillsborough County’s Aging Services, and the Children’s Board, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), IRS, the Walmart Foundation, Bank of America, Wachovia/Wells Fargo and the National Disabilities Institute.

Copyright 2011 Melody Jameson
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