Free tax centers open in Tacoma Identity theft and tax scams are top tax concerns for 2018

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After the ribbon was cut (left), Key Bank volunteer tax preparer Amber Bearden (fourth from left in front) assisted single dad Zuron Martin (bending toward ribbon) Photo courtesy of Goodwill

The top tax issues for 2018 among singles and families making less than $54,000 a year are new forms of identity theft and tax scams, according to tax managers preparing to serve more than 900 singles and families this year with free tax filing at Goodwill’s free Tacoma tax center.

The tax center, located at Goodwill’s Milgard Work Opportunity Center, 714 S. 27th St. in Tacoma, is one of 75 centers throughout western Washington serving singles and families making less than $54,000 per year. Goodwill, the IRS, the Pierce County Asset Building Coalition, and financial supporter KeyBank reopened the free Tacoma tax center on Jan. 23. Hours of operation are Tuesday-Thursday, 3:30-7 p.m.

Due to high demand, reservations are necessary at Milgard at (253) 573-6832 and many other locations. Visit www.irs.treasury.gov/freetaxprep/ and type in your zip code for other nearby sites.

Zuron Martin getting his taxes done. Photo courtesy of Goodwill

Last year, the Milgard Center site provided $301,618 in free tax services, helping 1,067 tax filers to obtain nearly $1.4 million in refunds.

“This service is extremely valuable to low and moderate income households,” said April Sage, Sr. Relationship Manager & Market Team Lead – VP for KeyBank in Washington. “It can be difficult to manage the expense of a paid preparer or the complication of navigating the filing process on their own. Maximizing refunds helps pay bills and rent, and even puts food on the table as well as allowing some families to save for a child’s education or unexpected financial expenses.”

Attend Super Refund Saturday this year (Feb. 3)

High demand in Tacoma also means the upcoming Super Refund Saturday at Goodwill/Milgard (Feb. 3, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.), should serve an estimated 150 tax filers thanks to 25 volunteer certified tax preparers and additional support from KeyBank. Call (253) 573-6832 to make an appointment, which is strongly recommended to reduce waiting. Each year, KeyBank staffs a “Super Refund Saturday” free tax service in communities nationwide. During KeyBank’s national campaign, volunteers will help more than 1,000 households attain $2.4 million in refunds.

Nearly one million taxpayers did not file a Federal Income Tax Return last year leaving behind nearly One Billion Dollars in Unclaimed Refunds. The VITA free tax preparation service is also designed to keep people from missing tax credits and other entitlements such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), Child Tax Credit and Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled.

Even with years of community education, one in five eligible taxpayers still miss out on tax credit refunds each year, as there is high turnover on those who become eligible. One third of the population eligible for EITC is new each year as personal circumstances change. Maximum refunds resulting from the Earned Income Tax Credit can range from $500 to $6,000 for families, depending on income and family size (the national average is $2,470 per return).

Beware of tax scams by email, phone or social media: The IRS does NOT request personal or financial information by phone, email, text or other social media channels. Taking into account current scam techniques, the IRS will NEVER: demand immediate payment or threaten arrest or legal action or demand you pay taxes without a formal appeal process. Examples of recent scams include: telephone scammers demanding payments for non-existent taxes; and “Robo-calls” where scammers leave urgent callback requests through the phone telling taxpayers, under threat of pending legal action, to call back to settle delinquent taxes. The IRS initiates taxpayer contact via U.S. mail – any other outreach should be treated with suspicion. If in doubt contact the IRS first before responding.

Family member (unintentional, or intentional) identity theft: More non-custodial parents are claiming Child- and Earned Income Tax Credits, which are designed to help the actual caregivers for dependent children. The IRS will flag and provide a short delay to these types of returns to help guard against multiple claims. Consumers are advised however to also file early to minimize the risk of this happening.

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