Monday, January 26, 2015

Cherokee Nation Will Offer Free Tax Assistance

Starting Feb. 2, the Cherokee Nation will offer its Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program to help Cherokee citizens and the general public fill out and file federal and state taxes. Last year the free program helped more than 1,500 taxpayers by saving preparation fees of up to $400 that are normally charged for those services. The tribe offers assistance in 14 locations.

"The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program helps families file for and keep the tax credits for which they are eligible at no cost to the taxpayer," said Shay Smith, director of the tribe's Small Business Assistance Center. "Some tax preparers charge fees for electronic filing or for the completion of additional tax forms related to claiming tax credits or the Affordable Care Act. There are no fees associated with the VITA program, ensuring taxpayers receive 100 percent of their refund."

To qualify for VITA, which is open to Native and non-Native families, an individual or household must not make more than $58,000 per year and reside within the tribe's 14-county jurisdiction. The service is free and runs Feb. 2 through April 15. Walk-ins are available at the Tahlequah and Westville sites. All others are by appointment only.

This year, 13 certified volunteers from Cherokee Nation's commerce department and Cherokee Nation Entertainment will be preparing returns using the basic 1040 form and others that apply. All federal and state returns will be e-filed through VITA at no charge. To use the service, families must provide a photo ID, Social Security card and birth date for each person listed on the return, individual taxpayer identification numbers, W-2s, 1099s, a copy of the previous year's tax return, documentation of deduction and bank account information for direct deposit of any refund. Additional documents may be required, depending on the return.

The Affordable Care Act also now mandates taxpayers to have had health insurance last year or a penalty could apply.

Volunteers will be available for assistance in Sallisaw, Tahlequah, Pryor, Westville, Stilwell, Catoosa, Claremore, Jay, Collinsville, Salina, Muskogee, Vinita, Bartlesville and Nowata. Tax preparation can also be completed online for free for those qualifying at Appointments should be made as soon as possible. For more information on where to find the nearest volunteer and set up an appointment, call 918-453-5536.

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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