Volunteers help prepare income tax paperwork for residents

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FARMINGTON — Two local programs are helping San Juan County residents prepare their income taxes for free as the deadline to file approaches.

Volunteers and San Juan College students are providing free income tax preparation as part of the Four Corners Tax Help program.

The tax preparers have set up in the Quality Center for Business at 5101 College Blvd. through April 13 and operate on Fridays from noon to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The program is funded by an IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) grant, according to VITA Program Director Katherine Elliott.

"The goal of the grant is to be able to support the program, so we can prepare income taxes for free for all of these people and anybody in the community that needs help," Elliott said.

The program aims for people that qualify for the earned income tax credit with an income of less than $54,000 but they will not turn away people that have a greater amount of income.

The volunteers from the community and students must pass a four-part certification test from the IRS to prepare the taxes. Students volunteer a total of 150 hours to prepare taxes for clients.

Some students return to volunteer after their first year, Elliott said.

"Sometimes we have students that just get addicted to preparing taxes and they want to come back every year," Elliott said.

Clients that plan to have their taxes prepared by Four Corners Tax Help should a photo ID, Social Security cards along with all income tax paperwork including tax and W-2 wage statements from their employer, interest statements and 1099 forms.

More people have started utilizing the drop-off services where clients drop off all the required paperwork and return when it is finished to sign the paperwork before it's electronically filed.

Accounting major Tiffany Barbone said volunteering to prepare income tax paperwork gives her an advantage as she learns more about the process than sitting in a lecture hall.

"It's not hard. It's a little bit challenging but I'm okay with it," Barbone said. "I'm up for a challenge."

She enjoyed learning how to work with the clients and interact with them to help them file their income taxes.

Those seeking more information on the Four Corners Tax Help program can visit www.sanjuancollege.edu/fourcornerstaxhelp, call 505-566-3314 or email 4cornerstaxhelp@gmail.com.

Free tax preparation assistance is also provided by AARP volunteers at the Bonnie Dallas Senior Center at 208 N. Wall Ave. in Farmington. Services are offered from 8 to 11:30 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Jack Lowery, adult programs manager at the senior center, said all the appointments are full. He added those seeking the services can walk in, but there is no guarantee they will receive assistance.

Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

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