Get Ready to File

The Elderly and Those on Limited Income Can Still Get Free Assistance

The deadline to file personal state and federal income tax returns on time is rapidly approaching, even though you will have a couple of extra days this year.

And there is still time to get help in preparing your state and federal tax forms in the Valley. Many Los Angeles County residents who make less than $54,000 a year are eligible for free tax preparation help, county officials said.

“As the tax deadline on April 17th approaches, county residents should know that they may be eligible for free tax filing assistance,” county Supervisor Hilda Solis told City News Service. “This free bilingual service can help working families make ends meet.”

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) preparation of non-itemized returns is available for those on limited income, non-English speaking, and/or older than 60.

Along with your tax information, you should have proof of identification (photo ID); Social Security cards for you, spouse and dependents; birth dates for you, spouse and dependents on a tax form; a copy of last year’s form (if available); and proof of bank routing and account numbers (such as a blank check) for direct deposit.

Valley area locations offering assistance include:

— Las Palmas Park, located at 505 S. Huntington Street in San, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 14. Appointments are not required, but assistance is on a first-come, first-served basis.

— The Pacoima Library, located at 13605 Van Nuys Boulevard, on Saturday, April 14, from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. You must call (818) 899-5203 to make an appointment.

— Also in Pacoima, the El Nido Family Centers, located at 11243 Glenoaks Boulevard, Suite #2, are offering assistance through April 17. Call (818) 896-7776 for an appointment.

— Los Angeles Mission College in Sylmar will offer its last free preparation opportunity on Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. No appointment is required.

— Volunteers at the Panorama City Library, located 14345 Roscoe Boulevard, will provide help from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday in the Community Room. Call (818) 677-3600 to make an appointment.

— In Northridge, CSUN Volunteers will be in Bookstein Hall, Room 1111, on Thursday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. They will also be available April 16 and 17 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Appointments are recommended, but walkups will be accepted. Call (818) 677-3600 for an appointment.

“We served 6,000 people just in the last year,” said Jose Paguia CSUN’s VITA operations supervisor. “It’s highly recommended you get an appointment this weekend even if [the location says] no appointment needed. It’s going to be pretty busy this weekend and people with appointments will have priority.”

Normally federal and state income taxes must be filed by April 15 to be on time. But this year, April 15 falls on Sunday. And the following Monday, April 16, is  Emancipation Day — a legal holiday celebrated in Washington, D.C. — so taxpayers have until Tuesday, April 17, to file their federal 2017 returns. The filing deadline for state income taxes this year in California is also April 17.

If you need to file an extension, you must also file that request by April 17. That does not exclude you from paying if you owe taxes. You must make an estimated payment or face potential penalties and interest in addition to your outstanding tax bill.

The Federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a refundable credit worth up to $6,318 for low-to-moderate income individuals and families. It can reduce your tax bill and might even mean a refund The Cal EITC is worth up to an additional $2,775. For either benefit you must qualify and file a return even if you don’t owe any tax or are not required to file.

The massive changes to the tax laws approved by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump that include a repeal of personal exemption deductions, mortgage interest on homes purchased after Dec. 15, and moving expenses (except for military), will primarily apply to your 2018 returns.

Eight out of 10 taxpayers get their refunds by using direct deposit, according to the IRS. The agency uses the same electronic transfer system to deposit tax refunds that is used by other federal agencies to deposit nearly 98 percent of all Social Security and Veterans Affairs benefits into millions of accounts. Direct deposit also avoids the possibility that a refund check could be lost or stolen or returned to the IRS as undeliverable.

Nearly 330,750 county residents failed to apply for available refunds in prior years, leaving almost $580 million on the table, according to the FreeTax Prep LA website.

Remain vigilant for email scams. Taxpayers will only receive an email from Direct Pay or EFTPS if they’ve opted in for email notifications when they initiate the payment process in Direct Pay or sign up for email notifications through EFTPS. You should report all unsolicited email claiming to be from the IRS or an IRS-related function to phishing@irs.gov.

You can go to the website IRS.gov for answers to questions regarding federal taxes and filing online.

State online filing services are available through ftb.ca.gov.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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