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Low-income Connecticut residents can get free tax-prep help with VITA

Hartford Courant logo Hartford Courant 1/21/2022 Susan Dunne, Hartford Courant

Connecticut residents who meet certain income guidelines, who struggle with English, who are senior citizens or who have a disability may qualify for free assistance in filing their taxes.

In a news conference on Thursday, Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin and representatives of several local assistance organizations announced the beginning of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) season.

“Filing your taxes can be intimidating. ... If you need help filing taxes, getting the refunds you are entitled to, the tax credits you are entitled to, the VITA program makes it easy and free,” Bronin said.

He added that people who are qualified for the Child Tax Credit can apply for it when they file, “and you can receive that full amount from last year.”

Bronin was joined by officials from United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut, The Village for Families & Children and Human Resources Agency (HRA) of New Britain to discuss the program, in which IRS-certified volunteer tax preparers help people with low income or other difficulties.

Paula S. Gilberto, president and CEO of the United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut, said the program helps “ALICE” residents — asset-limited, income-constrained and employed — whose income “is not enough to afford basic household necessities, safe housing, adequate food, quality child care, transportation and health care.”

Gilberto emphasized that the program is a strong economic stimulus, because filers “use refunds to purchase goods and services from local stores and local businesses.”

Last year, more than 8,700 tax filers in Connecticut got free services from VITA’s 232 tax preparers. VITA reports that $24.5 million in refunds and credits resulted from those services.

Gilberto said the average adjusted gross income of filers last year was $25,997. On average, people who filed taxes through VITA received a federal return of $1,948 and an average earned income tax credit of $1,605.


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Dr. Marlo Greponne, executive director of HRA, said one of the goals of the VITA program is to increase the number of households who are on the earned income tax credit.

This month, Gov. Ned Lamont used federal money to retroactively increase the credit for 2021 for low-income households.

Hector Glynn, COO of The Village for Families & Children, cited “stress in general during this time of COVID, this time of unsettlement, really has an effect physically, mentally and really on the academics of the children. If we can help someone destress by helping them file taxes … then we have done a little bit forward on our mission.”

Eligibility

VITA was founded in 1971 in California as a tool for poverty reduction and spread nationwide in the half-century since then, eventually partnering with community aid organizations and being funded by matching grants from the IRS.

For the 2021 tax year, basic eligibility requirements are household income less than $58,000, business expenses (for the self-employed) less than $25,000 and no income from a rental property, according to 211ct.org/taxhelp. Others may qualify based on limited English skills or a disability.

To find out if you qualify for the VITA program, visit 211ct.org/taxhelp. Tax filing opens on Jan. 24.

Those who qualify can set up a live or virtual appointment or can drop off their tax documents to be reviewed by a tax preparer. The volunteers help with filing and can give advice on ways to save money. To find out what documents are needed by VITA, visit uwc.211ct.org/vita-docs.

Qualifiers in the Greater Hartford and Windham Regions can make an appointment at 211ct.org/taxhelp or dial 211 and press 3, then 6.

Qualifiers in the New Britain region can make an appointment by visiting hranbct.org/VITA or calling 860-356-2000.

People with simple returns who prefer to prepare their own taxes securely online, free of charge, can go to myfreetaxes.com, which is offered by the United Way.

Susan Dunne can be reached at sdunne@courant.com.

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