Arlington offers free tax help for low-income families

01/12/2014 12:00 AM

01/12/2014 3:05 PM

Last tax season about $90 million in tax credits available to needy families went unclaimed in the Metroplex, so the city of Arlington is making sure people get their money this tax season and hopefully spend it here.

IRS-certified tax preparers are setting up shop at five Arlington locations from the last week of January through April 15 as a part of a continued effort to provide free tax preparation assistance to those who make less than $50,000 per household.

United Way of Tarrant County gave the city a $127,000 grant to set up the tax preparation sites for the 2013-14 tax season, including new sites at the Lake Arlington Branch Library and Arlington Human Services Center.

To receive $300 worth of tax assistance, Arlington residents must bring a W-2, 1099 or 1098 paperwork, a Social Security card or ITIN letter for those who don’t have a social security number, and picture identification.

Arlington participates in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program through the United Way as part of a countywide incentive to help eligible citizens receive get special tax credits through the earned income tax credit.

The coordinated effort with the University of Texas at Arlington, Tarrant County College, Foundation Communitiesand other nonprofits, is intended to help low-income families become financially stable.

“It’s one of the city’s anti-poverty strategies, and it’s one across the U.S. that has bipartisan support,” said Sheryl Kenny, grants manager for the city. “It allows working families to claim a credit that’s in the tax code that helps them make ends meet.”

According to IRS statistics, 38,000 Arlington residents received an earned income tax credit in 2011. Of those, 62 percent used paid preparers, and 38 percent self-filed or used a VITA site.

Kenny said residents will also have access to financial literacy courses and an opportunity to invest part of their refund into savings bonds.

“It’s opening our doors through a community partnership to offer another service in our venue where our patrons are likely to come and use city service,” said Norma Zuniga, an Arlington public library division administrator.

Zuniga said the library system already partners with AARP Tax-Aide primarily for those over 60 at the George W. Hawkes Central Library and the East Arlington, Lake Arlington, Southeast, Southwest and Woodland West branches.

AARP tax help is still available, but VITA preparation focuses on low-income families, Kenny said.

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