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Volunteer Centers Help Qualifying Taxpayers With Free Filing

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All across the city and country, there are Volunteer Income Tax Assistance sites where volunteers are helping taxpayers who qualify file their taxes for free. NY1's Money Matters reporter Tara Lynn Wagner filed the following report.

Paying a professional to do one's taxes can sometimes be costly, and Claudette Spivey thought she could not afford it.

"They charge you a lot of money, up to $300, and I couldn't afford it because I've been unemployed," Spivey says.

So this year, Spivey had her taxes done at a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site in a church basement in the Corona section of Queens, operated by the Food Book for New York City.

Across the country, VITA sites are being manned by IRS-certified volunteers who will e-file returns for free for those who qualify.

Dominique Jones, the chief programs officer for the Food Bank for New York City, says those who qualify include "a family who earns less than $51,000 a year or individuals who earns less than $18,000."

"They went through with a fine-toothed comb and explained everything to me and showed me how much I would get back," says Spivey.

"Very user-friendly," says Bruce Lytle, who also had his taxes prepared at a VITA site. "They provide you with a free service and all you really have to do is bring them a couple pieces of documents."

Those documents include a photo ID, social security card or ITIN, any W-2 or 1099 form one may have and any documents pertaining to child care expenses, if applicable.

In many cases, the same individuals who qualify for this free service may also be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit, something the volunteers are trained to look for. The IRS estimates that one in five taxpayers who is eligible for the EITC fails to claim it, leaving millions of dollars on the table.

This year, the maximum EITC credit is $5,891 for families with three or more qualifying children, which is money that not only helps individual families, but their local communities as well.

"Sometimes a couple of thousand dollars really helps make a difference, especially when you are trying to make ends meet," says Queen Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras.

"It's money for your children, to buy clothing," says Rep. Joe Crowley, who represents Queens and the Bronx. "And what it really does is it puts money right back into the community because we know the individuals who get these monies will spend them."

To find the nearest VITA site, visit IRS.gov or call 1-800-906-9887.

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