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April 23, 2008

Agency offers free tax assistance

By: Maria Garriga, New Haven Register 2008-01-17

NEW HAVEN — In 2007, New Life Corp., a nonprofit agency with just five employees, helped draw $4.8 million in federal tax refunds and credits by assisting 2,060 low-income workers prepare tax returns and claim federal Earned Income Tax Credits for low-wage workers.

New Life kicked off the 2008 tax preparation season Wednesday at Centro San Jose on Grand Avenue, one of its six tax preparation sites, with several key legislators present.

“EITC is not a handout. It’s a program only for working people. EITC brings in millions to communities for people who are living on very narrow margins,” said state Sen. Martin Looney, D-New Haven, Senate majority leader and longtime champion of the EITC.

Looney announced he will again seek to get a state Earned Income Tax Credit passed this year for low-income working families. The state credit would be worth 20 percent of a recipient’s federal EITC. Looney estimated it would cost the state roughly $40 million.

New Life gives free tax preparation help to qualified filers in New Haven and West Haven. “This is one of few programs out there that have a return on the dollar. This is not about giving away money,” said New Life Executive Director Ariel Martinez.

“We need to keep the momentum going,” said John M. Picard, mayor of West Haven, where 380 tax filers received free help from New Life volunteers.

State Sen. Toni Harp, D-New Haven, co-chairwoman of the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee, said the program has been key in helping low-wage workers build assets that could lead to home ownership or educational opportunities.

Looney and Harp said Rell’s administration refused to consider the proposal last year, which contributed to delay in budget approval.

“Opponents argue that this would be a windfall for people who do not pay taxes. That’s short-sighted. Low-income workers pay sales tax, gasoline tax and property tax through their rents,” Looney said.

Last year, tax filers aided by New Life’s volunteers received $1.28 million in Earned Income Tax Credits (a payment of up to $4,700 the federal government gives to qualified low-income workers as an incentive to stay employed ) and $3.04 million in federal tax refunds.

Yet 20 percent of those who qualify for the EITC do not claim it, or may not even know of it. Additionally, many other tax filers give returns, often quite simple, to large accounting firms.

New Life recruited and trained 80 community volunteers to process returns, giving workers alternatives.

New Haven offers a separate free tax assistance program through New Haven Economic Security Coalition. In 2005, that program helped 2,484 New Haven residents claim more than $3.6 million combined in federal and state refunds.

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Tax help available at these locations

NEW HAVEN — New Life Corp. will offer free tax preparation assistance for wage earners with income less than $40,000 a year.

Help will be available at: New Life, 540 Ella Grasso Blvd. and Centro San Jose, 290 Grand Ave., and the West Haven Community House at 227 Elm St., West Haven, from 6 to 8:30 p.m., Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturdays; at R’ Kids Family Center, 45 Dixwell Ave., from 6 to 8:30 p.m., Mondays and Thursdays; and the United Shoreline Federal Credit Union, 107 Whitney Ave., by appointment only Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with walk-ins Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m.

Bring W-2 forms and 1099 forms, a copy of 2006 tax return, original Social Security cards or individual taxpayer identification numbers for all family members. Those who would like their tax refunds and Earned Income Tax Credits deposited directly into bank accounts should bring account information. To request tax help or make an appointment, call New Life at 777-1319. To volunteer for training as a tax preparer, call New Life at 777-0313.

Maria Garriga can be reached at mgarriga@nhregister.com or 789-5726

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