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Tax help available for families in region

Residents of Grant, Traverse, Stevens, Pope and Douglas counties who earned up to $30,000 or families who earned up to $49,000 in 2012 may be eligible for free tax preparation.

For the 2011 tax season, 642 households were served with about $900,000 in refunds through the West Central Minnesota Communities Action (WCMCA) free tax preparation sites.

Tax preparation is available to families and individuals by trained and certified volunteers who are current in tax laws, credits, refunds and software through Volunteer Income tax Assistance (VITA) sites.

E-filing services can result in a refund as quick as seven to 21 days that, if taxpayer chooses, can be placed on a pre-paid debit card. Bridge to Benefits screening is available for free to learn if people qualify for any potential additional public benefits.

Two locations begin Tuesday, January 29 through Thursday, April 11:

Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Calvary Lutheran Church, Alexandria.

Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., WCMCA office, 411 Industrial Park Boulevard, Elbow Lake.

For more information or to set up an appointment, e-mail or call Heather or Renata at 1-800-492-4805. No small business or self-employment returns will be prepared at these sites.

Another goal of the project is to assist people in accessing the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). EITC is a special tax benefit for working people who earn low or moderate incomes.

EITC reduces the tax burden on workers by supplementing their wages and giving them incentive to work. Workers who qualify and file can get back some or all of the federal income tax that was taken out of their pay during the last year.

Even workers whose earnings are too small to owe income tax may get the EITC. Additionally, EITC offsets any additional taxes workers may owe, such as payroll taxes. Single or married people who work full or part time can qualify depending on their income.

The average EITC return of $1,440 per family could mean a total increase of $1,834,908 annually to families in Douglas, Grant, Pope, Stevens and Traverse counties.