Don’t throw your money away this tax season.
Because of misconceptions, for example, some people often pay for a computer program or a company to file their taxes for them. This can be a costly decision for those struggling to make ends meet because they are paying unnecessary fees. Fortunately, organizations throughout Milwaukee such as the Social Development Commission and Journey House are here to help through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program, or VITA.
George Hinton, the chief executive officer of the Social Development Commission, said his organization has a free tax program for people who make $58,000 or less a year. Hinton said the program wants to ensure that taxpayers receive every dollar they’re entitled to.
“We don’t think it’s necessary” for people to pay fees, he said.
How the program works
Kathi Rodgers, a site coordinator at the Social Development Commission, helps people file their taxes. When people arrive for their appointments, they need three things: a valid ID, the Social Security cards for everyone in the household and the proper tax forms such as a W2 for all the income they want to claim.
Some individuals may be able to itemize certain purchases. For example, students can bring book receipts; educators could bring receipts for supplies purchased for the classroom; and homeowners can itemize things such as medical bills and home repairs.
“If you think you can get a refund for it, just bring it,” Rodgers said.
On a good day, a typical appointment at the Social Development Commission should take from 45 minutes to an hour. While each appointment is slotted for 30 minutes, people are asked to arrive 15 minutes early to fill out the correct forms and go through the checklist with an intake specialist.
From there, they meet with a site coordinator who helps file their taxes. If eligible for a refund, people can set up a bank account to receive a direct deposit. Otherwise, site coordinators work with individuals to set up a payment plan.
“Sometimes refunds make the difference between a meal and homelessness,” Rodgers said.
The best time to schedule an appointment is mid-February to mid-March. That’s the ideal slow time, because starting around April 1, the commission has to start cramming appointments in.
Ricardo Galaviz, the VITA site coordinator for Journey House, said the organization has been offering free tax assistance for over 10 years. Since taking over as site coordinator, Galaviz has made a point to hire bilingual volunteers.
“I try to cater to the population we’re trying to serve here at Journey House,” he said.
Galaviz explained that the volunteers are certified and trained in tax law. If it’s a simple return, the appointment should take ideally a half hour, he said.
He recommends making the appointment online. People will be able to control their appointments online if they need to reschedule or cancel, he said.
Here are several programs that offer tax assistance.
Social Development Commission (SDC)
The Social Development Commission, in partnership with United Way, offers free tax preparation and filing to individuals and families living in Milwaukee County. To be eligible individuals must make $58,000 or less. To schedule an appointment, call 414-206-2262 or click here. The sites are open from now until Wednesday, April 15.
North Avenue: 1730 W. North Ave.
Teutonia: 6848 N. Teutonia Ave.
Chase: 2968 S. Chase Ave.
11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday
8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday and Friday
8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday
Journey House, 2110 W. Scott St., offers free tax preparation through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program from now until Saturday, April 4. Individuals or families must make $54,000 or less to be eligible. Its website lists what to bring to the appointment. To schedule an appointment, click here.
2110 W. Scott St.
4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Monday and Wednesday
9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday
The Milwaukee Public Library offers resources to help during tax season, but it does not offer a tax program. Tax forms from 2019 will be available at local library branches throughout Milwaukee. The library will help individuals view forms online and print them for 15 cents a page.
The Milwaukee Area Technical College is offering free assistance on tax returns. Taxpayers with a family income of $54,000 or less are eligible for the service.
Downton Campus (S Building): 700 W. State St.
Oak Creek Campus (Main Building): 6665 W. Howell St.
5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Thursdays at the Downtown Campus now through Thursday, April 2.
8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Saturdays at the Oak Creek Campus, Room A120 now through Saturday, March, 28
Did we miss a location that offers free tax assistance? Post it in the comments below or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.