Girding for tax time

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PROVIDENCE - The calendar may say February, but Richard Andrade is already thinking about April 15.

Andrade, the coordinator of the Interfaith Community Dire Emergency Fund, has tax preparers in place at Project Hope/Proyecto Esperanza, 400 Dexter St., in Central Falls, to process simple tax returns for those who might not be able to afford the cost of commercial preparers.

Five adult and 20 student volunteers from Providence College and Bryant University in Smithfield, all certified by the IRS, are lending their expertise to the cause.

From Monday to Wednesday, 6-9 p.m., volunteers will be available to process tax forms for anyone with an earned income of $40,000 or less, and having investment income no greater than $2,700.

Andrade said that low-income tax filers frequently want to use a commercial preparer to be able to access money through the Rapid Refund program, which authorizes an immediate refund. However, those preparers can claim as much as 40 percent of a refund as a fee, Andrade said. That means that a filer can choose between getting about 60 percent of any refund immediately, or he can go to Project Hope and receive the full amount in about two to three weeks and without surrendering any part of the refund or being assessed a preparation fee.

"If they come in with us, they will get 100 percent of their tax return," usually within several weeks, Andrade emphasized.

It's a blessing to see the reaction of the clients who learn they will be getting money back from the government, Andrade added. "When we push the 'return' button and they see that they are getting a refund, they say 'That's good.'

"It's not like they are going on vacation with it. They say 'Now I can pay some of my back rent.'"

Andrade said that the preparers are also able to file first-time applications for Individual Tax Identification Numbers. These ITIN cards are used to identify immigrants who have worked legally and paid taxes in this country, but do not yet have a Social Security number. Those ITIN applications can only be filed along with a tax return, he said.

Those wishing to file a tax return must bring the following items with them: Social Security cards or ITINs for all those claimed on the return, W-2 forms, 1099 forms and 1099-INT forms. Anyone who wants a refund directly deposited into a checking account needs to bring a voided check and a bank routing number.

Andrade said that volunteers prepared 117 returns last year, procuring more than $70,000 in refunds for the taxpayers.

(This article originally appeared in The Providence Visitor)