During December, Logan County Good Samaritan (LCGS) is trying to educate the public about what services it provides. This week’s article explains the use of partnerships with other organizations and agencies to improve the lives of Logan Countians. Current partnerships include Feeding America, Wal-Mart, City of Russellville, Barren River Asset Building Coalition (BRABC) and the IRS.
The partnership with Feeding America began in 2000 in an effort to bring the government sponsored TEFAP (USDA) program back to Logan County and allow us to purchase foods at a discounted rate. In the years since, other programs and benefits have been added through this partnership including the CSFP (Senior Box) program, the Wal-Mart donation agreement, and the Farm to Food Bank produce. Since we discussed food programs in length last week, we will move on.
In 2008, LCGS began a partnership with the City of Russellville to assist them in providing a monthly discount to elderly or disabled eligible households. The City Council passed an ordinance allowing for a $10 per month discount on the water bills of those who are age 65+ or who are permanently disabled and who meet certain income guidelines. The complete ordinance is available at the City Clerk’s office. Good Samaritan certifies those who qualify and the City provides the discount on the water bills. Anyone who thinks they may qualify is encouraged to bring a photo ID with birth date, proof of income for everyone who lives at that address and a current Russellville City Water bill to the office located at 602 East 4th St in Russellville. Office hours are Monday through Thursday from 9 am until 2 pm.
Also in 2008, LCGS began partnering with BRABC and the IRS to provide free tax preparation through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. BRABC’s mission is to help low to moderate income working families realize economic self-sufficiency through financial literacy, tax preparation assistance, and asset building opportunities. In 2015, LCGS prepared 276 tax returns with the support of our dedicated volunteers. An additional 36 taxpayers were assisted in preparing and filing their own returns for free.
Through the VITA program, IRS certified income tax preparers complete tax returns for free for qualifying taxpayers. For the upcoming tax season, the income limit for the VITA program will be $54,000. Free e-filing and direct deposit of both State and Federal returns is provided. We currently have 3 returning tax preparers with several years experience each.
Assistance is offered for taxpayers who want to learn to file their own taxes online for free through the myfreetaxes.com website. The income limit for this service is $62,000. One advantage of the assisted self file is that taxpayers can begin their return at home. Most taxpayers can even finish their return at home. But, if the taxpayer needs assistance, wants someone to double check their work, or just needs a printer to print a copy, we are available to meet that need. Either way, taxpayers leave with a copy of
their taxes and a better understanding of their tax situation. Anyone receiving a refund is encouraged to use that money wisely by starting or adding to an emergency fund, paying down debts or starting a savings account, etc.
We are very excited about the upcoming tax season because this will be the first year LCGS is an approved Drop Off site for the VITA program. This will allow taxpayers to fill out the interview sheet and drop off their information for return preparation. Once the return is completed, a different certified preparer will review it for accuracy and set up an appointment for the return to be picked up by the taxpayer. In previous years, these steps had to occur while the taxpayer was present and required 2 certified preparers to be available. We believe this will be less stressful and more efficient while still adhering to strict IRS guidelines. All tax preparation services are by appointment only by calling 270-725-9002. Appointments are available Monday through Thursday from 2:30-5 pm and Fridays and Saturdays from 10 am until 4 pm during the tax season.
Many people take advantage of this program and our need for volunteers is always growing! We have volunteer positions consisting of Tax Preparer, Site Greeter and Ambassador. Tax preparers are responsible for preparing basic income taxes and working with taxpayers to ensure that they file a complete and accurate tax return. Preparers use interpersonal skills, basic computer skills, and IRS resource guides to help them apply their knowledge of tax law and must complete BASIC certification provided before filing taxes.
Greeters welcome customers as they come in, give them the correct forms to fill out, and answer phone calls. This job is a great way for new volunteers to familiarize themselves with how VITA Sites are set up and operated. And while greeters are a vital part of each site, they do not have to certify in order to volunteer!
Ambassadors help distribute information before and during tax season. Since we cannot compete with the elaborate marketing campaigns many tax preparation firms implement, we rely heavily on our ambassadors to hand out flyers and use other means to get the word out. Ambassadors have a direct impact on how many people find out about our services.
If you would like to help low to moderate income families in meeting their tax reporting requirements to the IRS, please contact us! Volunteering has many benefits including: learning valuable skills, building your resume, helping the local economy, and working flexible hours.
If you have any questions about any LCGS programs or how to volunteer, please call 270-725-9002. You may also visit our website at logancountygoodsam.com or find us on Facebook. LCGS is totally funded by donations. All donations are greatly appreciated and tax deductable!