Marion County residents can receive free income tax help

Assistance will be provided until mid-May for basic and intermediate tax returns for taxpayers with a yearly income of $35,000 or less.

But, according to Lynn Unruh, community services coordinator for MIDCAP of Marion County, the income requirement is a ?gray line.?

?If someone makes a little over that, I?m not going to turn them away because the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) really wants people to e-file,? Unruh said.

The tax-preparation assistance, provided by appointment only, helps low-income taxpayers find needed tax breaks and deductions.

?(MIDCAP?s) mission is to help low-income people and families become self-sufficient,? Unruh said. ?Through the Earned Income Credit, that can really help low-income people get on their feet, also the dependent care credit can help young families to survive financially and thrive.?

Earned Income Tax Credit is a refundable tax credit that reduces or eliminates the taxes that low-income married or single working people pay.

The Household and Dependent Care Credit is a nonrefundable tax credit for taxpayers who care for a qualifying individual.

Unruh is trained for tax-preparation through a partnership between MIDCAP and the IRS. She said she went through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, being trained on three possible returns: basic, intermediate and advanced.

Last year, Unruh could do all three levels, but this year decided to get only the basic and intermediate certification.

?I got the advanced last year, but I really don?t need it so I didn?t do it this year,? she said.

Of the 100 patrons she had during last year?s tax season, Unruh said she did about half basic and half intermediate returns.

Taxpayers utilizing the service should bring their Social Security card, 2007 tax package and label, all forms, W-2s and 1099s, information for all additional income, information for all deductions and credits and a copy of last year?s tax return.

The tax appointment starts with a short interview with the taxpayer to determine residency, income and possible deductions.

After the initial interview, Unruh uses a computer to complete the tax documents. After the patron looks over the finalized product, Unruh will e-file the tax forms.

?With e-filing you get your refund much quicker than if you send it in on paper, especially if you direct deposit also,? Unruh said.

On average, the entire process takes 30 minutes.

In addition to assisting low-income taxpayers, Unruh said the tax assistance program allows her to discover other means of assistance for those in need.

?Another thing that?s real exciting in doing taxes, I meet a lot of the residents of Marion County and then through doing their taxes and talking with them, I?ll know whether they qualify or are interested in some of (MIDCAP?s) other programs,? Unruh said.

Other programs include mentorship, gas vouchers and a new savings program.

?If (people) meet the income guidelines, then they can set up a special savings account and for every dollar they put in, it is matched by $2,? Unruh said.

The saved funds are limited to use for education, home purchase or starting a small business.

?That?s a brand new program,? Unruh said. ?I?m real excited about that one.?

To make a tax-preparation appointment, or to see if you meet income qualifications for other MIDCAP programs, contact Unruh at 620-382-8807 or toll free at 1-888-877-5948.