BY GARY PERILLOUX
TUPELO – Free tax returns, anyone?
Several community partners are offering just that beginning Saturday and continuing through the April 15 tax deadline.
Families who make no more than $35,000 a year may have their tax returns prepared for free and filed electronically for quick response from the Internal Revenue Service.
The Tupelo Neighborhood Partnership, BancorpSouth and the IRS have joined hands on the project, with the bank providing 60-plus volunteers trained by the IRS.
The neighborhood partnership is coordinating the service at the Park Hill Village Community Center on North Madison Street, where the Tupelo Housing Authority is offering space three days a week.
“It's going to be an outstanding service,” said Torris Purnell, TNP president. “Sometimes they pay $200 to $400 to get their taxes done when they go to a tax preparation service.”
For families with limited income, that's a big tax bite.
In addition to saving money, the service will save time, Purnell said. Taxpayers may receive refunds in 10 to 14 days using electronic filing at the site and direct deposit.
The entire program falls under the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance umbrella, an effort similar to AARP's Tax-Aide program geared to senior citizens.
“They're doing a wonderful effort in Tupelo, and they're doing it very well,” said Kathleen Heirdon, an IRS tax specialist in Jackson. “The VITA group – with their evening hours and their weekend hours – is going to be reaching out to working people who may be working during the day.”
BancorpSouth has been organizing its VITA effort since November, said Monica Aldrige, a vice president in the bank's Community Reinvestment Act division.
“The primary purpose of the VITA site is to assist the low-income individual and ensure they're getting the proper credits they're due,” she said, citing the earned income tax credit and the child tax credit. “When someone goes to file their taxes on their own, they may not be aware of some of the credits they're eligible for.”
Purnell said taxpayers who come to the site may open savings accounts – if they don't already have one – and have their tax refunds deposited into the new accounts within days.
What's more, they can save money on the tax filing itself.
“The main reason we're participating in this program is to help people manage their money better,” he said, adding that people may also register for financial literacy and homebuyer education courses offered by TNP.