GRABC offers free income tax preparation

Linda Hagan, IRS certified tax preparer, left, helps Mellissa Wilhite prepare and file her taxes as part of the Green River Asset Building Coalition free income tax preparation service on Monday at Sts. Joseph & Paul Catholic Church’s Father Tucker Center.

The Green River Asset Building Coalition prepared nearly 6,000 income tax returns for free last year.

The nonprofit helped regional residents receive more than $7.2 million in refunds. Of that total, more than $2.2 million came from earned income tax credits.

According to the IRS, up to 20% of families nationwide don’t receive that tax credit because they fail to file a return. The credit is a benefit for low- to moderate-income families.

People who had earned income in 2019 may be eligible for up to $6,557 in an earned income tax credit.

The median income of GRABC’s clients last year was $17,800, said Tina Lynch, the coalition’s executive director. The earned income tax credit could do a lot to strengthen families’ financial security, providing money to pay off bills or save for emergencies.

GRABC offers free tax preparation services to residents who earned under $66,000, senior citizens, disabled residents, military members, veterans and residents who speak English as a second language.

For the second year, the nonprofit is challenging customers to save a portion of their income tax returns.

“We’ve already seen way more participating in the saving initiative this year,” Lynch said.

She credits a new instant prize drawing.

After taxes are prepared, those who agree to save a portion of their refunds will draw a number and receive a corresponding envelope. Prizes include movie tickets and gift cards from retailers and area restaurants.

Clients also will be entered into other drawings.

There is a national sweepstakes in which 100 people will win $100 each this tax season. Another national contest will reward savers with two $10,000 grand prizes.

GRABC’s Prepare 2 Prosper contest will feature 10 matched-savings winners. In May, the nonprofit will draw 10 winners who can win up to $200 each, depending on how much money they saved from their refunds.

And in September, the local nonprofit will draw one $1,000 winner from eligible GRABC tax filers.

This tax season, the nonprofit has 147 volunteer tax preparers at 21 sites in 12 counties. Volunteers are IRS trained and certified.

No appointment is necessary. The Owensboro Community & Technical College site on Frederica Street is the busiest. On Tuesday, the wait was about two hours, volunteers said.

However, wait times vary, depending on the site and time of the tax season. For instance, tax preparation for GRABC is very heavy during February.

If clients have not filed tax returns from 2016 through 2018, they can still do that. The ability to file a return for 2016 expires on April 15, Lynch said.

Many people are eligible for refunds for those years, but don’t file tax returns for various reasons, she said. Many people don’t know they can still file for prior years.

These items are needed to file a return: picture ID for the client and spouse, Social Security cards or individual tax ID numbers for everyone on the tax return, income documentation, receipts for deductions, documents related to tax credits, last year’s income tax return and bank account information for direct deposits.

Lynch urges taxpayers not to be swayed by for-profit tax preparers who promise faster refunds and provide loans until refunds post to checking accounts. Those deals can cost a large percentage of tax refunds.

GRABC started preparing taxes for free in 2005. The first year it assisted only 305 taxpayers.

Since beginning, the nonprofit has prepared more than 50,000 returns, saving regional clients more than $10 million in preparation fees.

Total refunds since 2005: More than $65 million. Of that amount, more than $24 million came from earned income tax credits.

For more information about GRABC and free income tax preparation, go to www.GRABC.org or call 270-685-1603.

Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835, rbeasleyjones@messenger-inquirer.com.

Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835, rbeasleyjones@messenger-inquirer.com

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