Most people don’t want to think about it but it’s the time of year to begin thinking about filing 2019 tax returns. For many working people in Jamaica Plain there’s some relief from the confusing process of figuring out taxes.
Action for Boston Community Development’s (ABCD) Jamaica Plain APAC site, in partnership with the City of Boston, kicked off its annual Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) program at its office at 30 Bickford St. The office will be opened Monday through Friday to help begin the tax filing process. Taxes for qualifying residents can be done through appointment by calling the APAC office at (617) 522-4830.
If you earned less than $56,000 in 2019, you may qualify.
For many working people in Jamaica Plain the program has provided some relief from the confusing process of figuring out taxes. Qualified hard working low-wage workers often receive significant EITC credits and see a big increase in their tax returns through the free program. This is money that can directly help low-income residents who work hard for their money. It can be used to pay the heat, food and rent costs that are weighing people down.
Last year, ABCD’s APAC sites returned over $24 million in refunds back into the pockets of Jamaica Plain and Boston residents through the EITC program. APAC was one of several free tax preparation sites in the city that made filing taxes trouble-free for hundreds of Jamaica Plain’s low-income residents and families.
In 2019, the average EITC refund amount was $2,400. Yet, according to the Internal Revenue Service, an estimated one in five EITC-eligible workers fail to claim this valuable credit each year.
Last Friday Mayor Martin Walsh’s encouraged Boston residents to take advantage of free tax preparation services available at more than 30 sites across the Boston area during an event at ABCD in Roxbury.
“The free tax services provided by the Boston Tax Help Coalition are a fantastic opportunity for hard-working residents to save money,” said Walsh. “The services help taxpayers avoid the costs of for-profit tax preparation agencies while still claiming cash back on their tax returns. These savings can provide a critical boost to a family’s financial health.”
The EITC credit can be accessed retroactively for the past three years, so qualifying low-income workers may qualify for a considerable sum.
Also seniors aged 65 and older were eligible to receive tax refunds from the State of Massachusetts through the “Senior Circuit Breaker Tax Credit”. This credit was available to all eligible seniors who paid unsubsidized rent or property taxes and was also retroactive for three years. The “Senior Circuit Breaker” offered a tremendous financial opportunity for those who qualify.
Initiated by the IRS in 1969, the EITC and VITA is a nationwide program that assists taxpayers earning up to $58,000 a year. VITA sites are generally located at community and neighborhood centers like APAC, libraries, schools, shopping malls and other convenient locations such as community colleges in low income areas.
Last year, the Coalition served nearly 13,000 taxpayers and enlisted hundreds of IRS-certified volunteers to return
In addition to tax preparation, the Coalition provides clients with other services to improve their financial health. For example, the Coalition connects taxpayers to Bank On Boston, an initiative launched by Mayor Walsh that helps residents identify banking services that are safe, affordable, and non-predatory. Trained financial guides also offer taxpayers the Financial Check-Up, a key component of Boston Builds Credit, the City’s free credit building program. A Financial Check-Up is a one-on-one session in which a taxpayer can review his or her credit score and obtain personalized credit-building strategies. A new funder of this work is the SunTrust Foundation, which this year provided a $50,000 grant to support Boston’s credit-building programs.