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SPCA, VOC team up to help people maximize tax benefits

Date: 1/31/2013

By G. Michael Dobbs

SPRINGFIELD — Nationally, billions of dollars in tax benefits are not being claimed and Springfield Partners for Community Action (SPCA) and the Valley Opportunity Council (VOC) are continuing their efforts this tax season to help residents receive what they deserve.

SPCA kicked off his 11th annual effort to prepare the tax returns for low-income residents, which will include taking advantage of Earned Income Tax Credits at a press conference on Jan. 25.

As several Springfield residents were finishing up their returns with volunteer counselors, SPCA Executive Director Paul Bailey said the official anti-poverty agency assists 2,500 people each year with filing their returns.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) has been funded for both agencies in part by the United Way of the Pioneer Valley. The tax preparation is free and features electronic filing that can deliver refunds in half the time of submitting paper documents.

Joseph Diamond, executive director of Massachusetts Association for Community Action, said SPCA has been a statewide leader in providing this tax service. Diamond called the program "a very powerful tool" in helping develop financial literacy.

According to a report by the Brookings Institute, income inequality has been widening for the past 40 years and the EITC and the Child Tax Credit can increase earnings and lower the poverty rate. The report added that only about 20 percent of the people who could apply for EITC take advantage of the program.

The report also noted that wile more than 27 million received nearly $62 million in EITC refunds in 2011, almost $13 billion in benefits were unclaimed.

VOC Executive Director Steve Huntley stressed the importance of people taking advantage of the EITC, if they qualify.

To participate, residents must meet eligibility requirements, including income limits that range from $13,980 for a single person ($19,190 if married and filing jointly) with no qualifying children to $45,060 ($50,270 if married and filing jointly) with three or more qualifying children.

Self-employed people are not eligible for the VITA program.

To make an appointment and to meet requirements, low- and moderate-income residents of Massachusetts can call SPCA at 263-6500 for an appointment. The main location for the VITA program is the SPCA office sat 721 State St., but there are satellite offices at the Open Pantry, 2460 Main St.; U.S. Taekwondo Center, 28 Stony Hill Road, Wilbraham; Local 1199 SEIU, 20 Maple St., and Liberty Heights: Deborah J. Barton Neighborhood Network Center, 160 Nursery St.

The VITA program at VOC is located at 300 High St., Holyoke on the second floor. For appointments call 612-0120.