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Free Tax Help Could Mean Big Bucks Fast For Working WV Families

January 24, 2011

CHARLESTON, W. Va. - Free tax help from IRS-trained volunteers is now available for working people at 89 locations around West Virginia. Kelli Hinkle, program coordinator for the West Virginia Alliance for Sustainable Families says the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) counselors can help people file electronically. And she says, with a direct deposit to their bank account, the taxpayer can get a refund within a few days, without paying any fees.

"We estimate within seven to ten days, they can get their refund direct-deposited if they e-file – and a lot of times, it's sooner."

VITA volunteers are working to get more people their Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC). This can mean an extra $5,000 or more refunded to a lower-income, working family with three children. But Hinkle says the IRS estimates only one out of four taxpayers qualified for the EITC take advantage of it – leaving that money on the table.

"In West Virginia, as many as 25 percent of the eligible taxpayers are not getting their credit, so our tax volunteers are trained to identify the taxpayers that are eligible for that credit – as well as other credits, like the child tax credit."

To encourage savings, adds Hinkle, the IRS now makes it possible to put tax refunds into a savings bond, in the name of anyone the taxpayer wants.

"Taxpayers can have part or all of their tax refund directed towards the purchase of a savings bond. And the savings bond doesn't have to be for that individual; it can be for a grandchild or a spouse."

Many cash-strapped West Virginians apply for refund anticipation loans, so they can have their money right away. But Hinkle says the fees for those loans are extremely high, while the VITA service is free of charge. To find a VITA site near you, call 211 or look online at www.wveitc.com.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV