The Cherokee Nation is now taking appointments to help eligible families fill out 2015 federal and state income taxes for free.
Last year the tribe’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program helped more than 1,500 taxpayers by saving preparation fees of up to $400 that are normally charged for those services.
To qualify for VITA, which is open to both Native and non-Native families, an individual or household must not make more than $54,000 per year and reside within the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction.
The tribe also offers assistance filling out tax forms in 14 locations throughout northeastern Oklahoma.
“This is an important program because we are able to assist so many families within our 14-county jurisdiction. Providing this service means we are able to ensure the federal and state paperwork is done timely and correctly and more importantly, save hundreds of families the burdensome fees of third-party tax preparation,” said Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr.
The service starts Feb. 1 and runs through April 15. Walk-ins are accepted at the Tahlequah and Westville sites. All others are by appointment only, including in Sallisaw.
This year, 13 certified volunteers from Cherokee Nation’s commerce department and Cherokee Nation Entertainment will be preparing returns using the basic 1040 form. 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 deductions 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 Tahlequah, Pryor, Westville, Stilwell, Sallisaw, Catoosa, Claremore, Jay, Collinsville, Salina, Muskogee, Vinita, Ochelata and Nowata.
The tribe’s Commerce department also recommends those qualifying to fill out their taxes online at http://www.myfreetaxes.com. For those with an income of $62,000 or less, call 855-698-9435 for assistance.
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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