Columbus group offers free tax filing services

Columbus group offers free tax filing services

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - The deadline to file 2015 taxes fast approaches. This year, however, tax season does not end on its usual date, Apr. 15.

Citizens all over the country have until Monday April 18 to file all tax returns. Now, why exactly is the deadline on Apr. 18?

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will celebrate Emancipation Day, a legal holiday in D.C., April 16. Therefore, IRS employees will have April 15 off of work, pushing the tax deadline to next Monday.

For those residents in the Chattahoochee Valley who haven't had the chance to complete their paperwork, nonprofit organization Goodwill Southern Rivers is offering free tax filing services throughout this weekend, but only for those who qualify.

To qualify, you must have earned no more than $54,000 from your yearly income. If a person qualifies, he or she can go to the Goodwill Southern Rivers location on Cross Country Drive near Macon Road.

Once there, trained tax preparers will sort out the paperwork using the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program, or VITA.

The IRS created the VITA program in 2010, and it now sponsors the program across the country, offering free tax preparation for citizens with lower incomes.

Bridgette Russell, a communications specialist with Goodwill Southern Rivers, said there's a sense of security for people who come to have their taxes sorted and organized.

"You are coming to tax preparers who have been trained and certified by the IRS," Russell said.

Clients using VITA go through a two-step process. First, they will each talk to one tax preparer to gather all the documents and have their names added to
a quality review sheet.

Second, clients will then meet with a different preparer to go over the final return forms, making sure every document is correctly filled out. After that,
all papers will be sent back to IRS as e-files.

In addition to offering free tax services, organizations like Goodwill want to educate the community about seeking reliable tax services, in order to not fall victim to other companies who charge hidden fees or do not meet the proper qualifications.

Gwendolyn Usher said she's gone to Goodwill the last four years to have her taxes filed, after having unpleasant experiences with other tax preparers.

"[They've] been good to me," Usher said. "Whether I owe back or get nothing back…it's been a pleasure; a pleasure for me to come here."

Goodwill plans to keep its doors open through Saturday Apr. 16, and even on Monday, April 18.

The organization said it does accept walk-ins, but interested residents should make note to register at the office before closing time.

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