Certified Volunteers Help “Low to Moderate” Income Taxpayers Prepare and File Their Taxes for Free at the Hawaii State Capitol

Media Release:

In collaboration with the Hawai’i Alliance for Community-Based Economic Development (HACBED) and its affiliates, state lawmakers hosted one of many free tax preparation clinics this tax season, on Saturday, January 29, 2011, for low- to moderate-income taxpayers to have their state and federal taxes prepared and filed for free with the help of IRS-certified volunteers. For those receiving a refund, they expect to have their funds soon after February 18, 2011.

Lawmakers with HACBED volunteers at the Capitol tax preparation clinic

The event was part of HACBED’s Family and Individual Self-Sufficiency Program that offers free tax preparation sites statewide. To locate other free tax assistance sites, taxpayers can call Aloha United Way’s Helpline at 2-1-1. For a complete list of tax sites on Oahu, Big Island, Maui, and Kauai, and more information about HACBED’s Family and Individual Self-Sufficiency Program, taxpayers should visit the Program’s website at www.hawaiitaxhelp.org.

At the Capitol’s free tax preparation clinic, twenty-two federal and state income tax returns were filed by the volunteers, which helped taxpayers claim approximately $36,401 in total refunds, including over $7,238 in Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC).

“With new tax codes and the EITC, these free tax clinics bring relief to those qualified taxpayers,” said Rep. Della Au Belatti. “And for some attendees, they may be eligible for a credit or refund of up to $5,666. We want to make sure that people know about these free services. There are site locations statewide that low- to moderate-income taxpayers can go to for assistance. ”

“Many people are unaware that they qualify for EITC,” said Senator Suzanne Chun Oakland. “People who were previously ineligible may now be eligible because of changes in their personal lives, such as marriage or divorce, having children, and loss of a job or reduction in hours.”

Since the 2006 tax season, HACBED, its community partners and volunteers have helped low-to-moderate income taxpayers claim over $11 million in tax refunds, including $6.7 million in Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credits, and saved these taxpayers more than $1.3 million in tax preparation costs. The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a tax benefit for people who worked full or part-time and meet the earned income qualifications.

“Although the ideal situation would be to persuade taxpayers to use a free tax site before they develop the habit of going to a paid preparer, at this level, the primary concern is having them file a proper tax return and claim whatever tax credits they are entitled to claim,” added Representative Della Au Belatti.

State legislators who sponsored the free tax clinic at the State Capitol are:  House Speaker Calvin Say, Representative Della Au Belatti, Representative Tom Brower, Representative Sylvia Luke, Representative Scott Nishimoto, Representative Karl Rhoads, Representative Scott Saiki, Senator Suzanne Chun Oakland, and Senator Brickwood Galuteria.

Tax preparation sessions are confidential and safe.  All tax returns will be prepared by IRS-certified volunteers who volunteer at other sites coordinated by HACBED’s Family and Individual Self-Sufficiency Program.  The program started offering free tax assistance services to low-to-moderate income workers at four permanent sites in 2005 when it was first established under Aloha United Way.

Today, this statewide program recruits volunteers and coordinates efforts at more than 40 sites and clinics that are sponsored by non-profit organizations, educational institutions, and businesses.  Some of the program’s community partners include Alulike, Inc., Leeward Community College, Volunteer Legal Services Hawaii, the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, Honolulu Community Action Program, INGDirect, Goodwill Industries, KEY Project, Honolulu Community Action Program, and several credit unions in Kekaha, Hickam, Waialua and Maui.

The Family and Individual Self-Sufficiency Program became a part of the HACBED in July 2009.  It was established to coordinate, support, and expand free tax assistance service to low-to-moderate income workers and to help them claim valuable tax credits such as the EITC and to offer them financial literacy assistance so that they can make better decisions about how they spend the refunds they receive.  HACBED is a statewide federally tax-exempt non-profit organization established in 1992 to encourage increased investments in sustainable and community-based approaches to economic development.  Its mission is to maximize the effectiveness of people working in communities and the non-profit sector to build a healthier and safer Hawai`i through community-based economic development.

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