Jeraldine Hunter (left) helps Rhonda Hawkins get her taxes filed for free. There are multiple VITA sites helping citizens across the Mid-South.
Earlier this month, in a room at Klondike Library in North Memphis (next door to Northside High School), Mid-South citizens were getting their taxes prepared and filed with help from a trained volunteer.
At other places across the region, people are paying to have their taxes prepared and filed – but not at any of the EITCA/VITA sites.
Thanks to the Earned Income Tax Credit Alliance (EITCA) and the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA), people at the library and other free tax sites, people are getting their taxes completed without cost.
It begs the simple question for other hard-working, moderate to low-income Mid-Southerners who qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit and could get their taxes prepared and filed for free with no hassle, but instead choose other paths where they must pay for the service: Why?
In many cases, it is due to deception. While there are respectable tax preparers working in our community, there are also unethical and illegal predatory lending organizations preying on our region, making promises that they can find ways to get their customers larger refunds than the tax codes allow.
“People will choose to go for the bigger refund, and that is what these predatory paid preparers promise them – a bigger refund,” said Jeraldine Hunter, Mobile Site Coordinator for the VITA program partnering with United Way.
“The only way someone can get a bigger refund than the tax code allows is through fraudulent filing. The preparers put fake information on the citizen’s tax return in order to get them a bigger refund,” Hunter said.
This leads to big problems when the IRS eventually examines the return.
VITA tax information is at all VITA sites to help the tax filer get questions answered and get the most out of the Earned Income Tax Credit.
“Then, the citizen who had their taxes filed for the larger refund is likely to be audited by the IRS. And the IRS will charge the tax filer, and the citizen will have to pay that money back.”
So what seemed like a larger refund becomes a big problem with the IRS. Meanwhile, the unethical predatory preparer the filer paid to work through the taxes is not responsible to repay the IRS.
Safe, highly trained VITA volunteers are helping at different locations throughout Memphis and the Mid-South including Fayette County in Tennessee, Crittenden County in Arkansas, and DeSoto and Tunica counties in Mississippi. They provide excellent free service to their clients, making sure people get their proper refunds.
For more information on locations to get your taxes filed with VITA, click here and for a listing of sites in the Mid-South outside Shelby County, click here.