Beginning Jan. 31, Central Missouri Community Action (CMCA) will again offer the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA) to low and moderate income individuals and families. The VITA program is designed to provide free income tax preparation assistance to families that earn low to moderate incomes and encourages use of Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), the Child Tax Credit and the Missouri Property Tax Credit.
With the help from the University of Missouri (MU), Columbia, Personal Financial Planning Dept., MU Extension and the IRS, CMCA is able to provide VITA services in Boone, Callaway, Cole, Cooper, Howard, Moniteau and Osage counties through the efforts of volunteers.
Last year, the VITA program served more than 800 people, an increase of 13 percent over the previous year.
"It was a critical year for VITA. Our clients really needed to keep 100 percent of the return for themselves so they can meet their ever-increasing expenses. Many of our participants would pay up to $300 or more to have their taxes prepared by a local firm. In addition, the anticipation loans can cost hundreds of dollars more than that. The VITA program helps them get the maximum financial relief possible while also using the fastest methods possible so people can have their refunds as quickly as possible," Jennifer Grisham, Financial Education Coordinator for CMCA, said.
One of the benefits of having CMCA assist with tax preparation is the assurance that Central Missourians will maximize any tax credits they may be eligible for. The Earned Income Tax Credit, in particular, is one credit that the IRS reports to be underutilized, with one in five people neglecting to claim it on their returns. Credits of up to $5,666 can provide economic relief to people that earned $48,362 or less from wages when filing a married, joint return. "The Earned Income Tax Credit is a financial boost for working people hit by hard economic times and we are committed to helping people file for this credit during such challenging economic conditions," Grisham said.
Another benefit to this program is the impact it has on the economy within the communities it serves. Dianna Moore, Director of Economic Development for CMCA said, "this program has the ability to stimulate local business activity by giving our clients an opportunity to have some disposable income. When we think about the current climate for businesses, this extra income can really benefit the local economy."
CMCA will offer tax clinics in Moniteau County at two locations. In California, appointments will be available on Feb. 3 and 17; March 10, 14 and 31; and April 4 and 8. In Tipton, appointments will be available at City Hall on Feb. 22. For an appointment, please contact the Moniteau County Family Resource Center located at 316 South Oak Street, California. For more information, call 573-796-3238.