Licking County, OH, 23 February 2016 | 07:00 AM America/Chicago Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Help to Make Getting Back on Your Feet Less Taxing Jennifer* was facing hard times. In her early sixties, she lost her job due to an illness and was in dire financial straits. She had no health insurance. Her home was in foreclosure. She wasn't making enough money to make ends meet. She looked for help and found Licking County Coalition for Housing (LCCH). LCCH gave her tax assistance that changed her course. The program that helped Jennifer is called Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA). VITA has four primary goals in serving low-to-moderate income individuals and families: Help low-income taxpayers file their tax returns correctly, completely and FREE. Inform taxpayers about the Earned Income Tax Credit, and make sure they claim it correctly. For some, the EITC can increase a refund by several thousand dollars. Educate consumers about the high cost of Refund Anticipation Cards (RACs) and offer a free alternative to a quick refund. Provide financial information to help achieve long-term financial stability. So, what happened to Jennifer? She had her taxes prepared free by a VITA volunteer who also helped create a tax strategy to reflect the changes in her life. She was referred to an attorney who was able to provide pro bono legal advice. She met with a LCCH homeless prevention assistant who explained the subsidized housing process and the options available to her. Jennifer now lives in a subsidized housing complex near her daughter. She has maintained a positive attitude through all life has thrown at her and credits her attitude to her special needs grandson. Jennifer shared, "I've learned a great deal about life from him, and how to make the best of each day. He is truly my inspiration." Tax Tips: Keep all tax documents together and give them to your tax preparer. Honesty is the best policy, never provide false information. Let your tax preparer determine which filing status benefits you and your family. Consider what benefits the household versus an individual when it comes to claiming dependents and credits. Ask questions and bring last year's return with you if you are using a different tax preparer. There are penalties for not filing a return. Interest is charged for not paying on time. Short-term goals for a refund: get current on your rent or mortgage if you are behind. Start a savings account/emergency fund. Take care of your transportation needs. Pay down balances on high interest credit cards. Long-term goals for a refund: consider saving for retirement. A small amount can have a significant effect over time. You can talk to a State Farm agent to explore choices that might be right for you. *The name of the individual in the story has been changed to protect her identity.