Free Tax Preparation Assistance Available on Campuses

by Diane VanDyke

With the slow economic recovery and the rising costs of living, many people earning low to moderate incomes can’t afford tax preparation assistance. Yet, without this help, they may not know about credits or refunds they could be eligible to receive.

Realizing this need exists, the Montgomery County Tax Coalition (MCTC) provides free income tax preparation services for eligible residents, including individuals, families and students.

Montgomery County Community College’s Central Campus in Blue Bell and West Campus in Pottstown serve as sites where qualifying residents can receive free tax income tax preparation assistance by trained volunteers of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. Taxes will be prepared by appointment only.

This free assistance is available to families with an annual gross income of less than $60,000 and for individuals with an annual gross income of less than $33,000. Investment income for families and individuals must be less than $3,100 per year.

To schedule an appointment in Blue Bell or at a nearby site, call North Penn United Way at 215-855-3002.  Appointments are being scheduled at the College’s Central Campus, Parkhouse Hall room 309, 340 DeKalb Pike, Blue Bell, now through April 15 on Fridays between 12:15 and 4:15 p.m.

Currently, four volunteers—two students and two community members— are available at the College’s Central Campus to assist with tax preparation. The Internal Revenue Service trains and certifies all VITA volunteers so they can prepare and electronically file income tax forms for clients.

Sarah Munson, one of the students, not only helps with the tax preparation but is also the site coordinator and oversees the appointments and reviews the returns.

“I like volunteering and using my math background and education to help people,” said Munson. “I was trained in tax preparation and to be the site coordinator and am now trying to let the public and students know about this free service.”

Other students from the College serving as VITA volunteers include Justin Guerrini, Helen Park and Clement Okyne.

To schedule an appointment at the College’s West Campus, 101 College Drive, Pottstown, call Family Services at 610-326-1610.  Appointments are available Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

VITA volunteers are also available at two other locations in western Montgomery County:  Family Services, 1976 E. High St., Pottstown, on Mondays and Tuesdays from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. and on Wednesdays from 2 to 7:30 p.m. and Trinity Reformed UCC Church, 532 E. Main St., Collegeville on Thursdays from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m.

People should bring the following documents to their appointments:  photo identification such as a driver’s license; Social Security card; birth date, copies of last year’s federal and state tax returns; wage and earning statements; interest and dividend statements; bank routing numbers and accounting numbers for direct deposit; daycare provider’s address, tax identification number and payment amount; and form 8332 or copy of a divorce decree for non-custodial parents claiming a child. If filing jointly, both the filer and the spouse must be present to sign the tax return.

VITA sites across Montgomery County returned almost $3.5 million in refunds to low to moderate income individuals and families last year.

MCTC includes the Community Action Development Commission of Montgomery County, Norristown; North Penn United Way, Hatfield; Community Housing Services, Lansdale; Family Services, Pottstown; and Chestnut Hill College, Philadelphia.

For more information about VITA, including a list of VITA tax preparation sites in Montgomery County, visit www.mctaxcoalition.com.

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