Howard's consumer office opens new tax preparation help site

2012 is first year for VITA program

January 19, 2012|By Andrea F. Siegel, The Baltimore Sun

Howard County is launching a volunteer program this year to help people of limited means prepare and electronically file their taxes for free.

The county has started the service this tax season as a pilot program, said Rebecca Bowman, administrator of the county's Office of Consumer Affairs.

"We are hoping to interest the nonprofits to take on doing it in the future," she said.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, or VITA, is part of a program operating across the country. Volunteers are certified by the IRS. There are income restrictions, but people who qualify for the earned income tax credit generally meet the financial guidelines, Bowman said. The earned income limit for a family with three children is about $49,000; for a single person with no children, it is about $13,600.

She said the county hopes to draw people who are working and moving toward becoming financially self-sufficient.

The service is being offered at the North Laurel Community Center, 9411 Whiskey Bottom Road in Laurel. It is open from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays, through April 14, Bowman said.

AARP, whose volunteers traditionally have provided free tax preparation help at senior centers to low- and moderate-income families in the county, also in conjunction with the IRS, is continuing its services during this tax season as well. The assistance is not limited to senior citizens. Appointments and location information are available starting Monday.

Appointments and information are available by calling the following locations: The Bain Center, 410-313-7387; Ellicott City Senior Center, 410-313-1400; Glenwood Community Center, 410-313-5440; East Columbia Senior Center, 410-313-7680; North Laurel Community Center, 410-313-0380; Savage Senior Center, 410-313-5192.

The county expects to spend between $18,000 and $20,000 on the Consumer Affairs-sponsored VITA service, mostly for a part-time coordinator and for printing copies of returns, Bowman said. Appointments are encouraged and can be made by calling 410-313-0386. Information on what documents to bring is available at that number and at the service's website:

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