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L-A CA$H Coalition kicks off tax season; appointments for free tax prep now available

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Coalition Co-Chair Dottie Perham-Whittier

The L-A CA$H Coalition held a press conference recently to kick off this year’s tax filing season. Once again, the Coalition will provide free tax preparation and e-filing of Federal and State income tax returns for low-to-moderate income residents. Tax preparation by the program’s IRS-certified volunteer tax preparers will begin on January 24 at the Lewiston Memorial Armory and Auburn City Hall. Tax returns will be prepared by appointment only; no walk-ins will be accepted. Appointments can be made by calling 513-3160 on or after January 15. For more information, see www.lewistonmaine.gov/lacash.

In addition to free tax preparation and e-filing, the Coalition will expand its financial education efforts this year, thanks to a Woman, Work & Community grant from the John T. Gorman Foundation. Coalition Asset Coordinator Jennifer Allen and Coalition Co-Chair Dottie Perham-Whittier reviewed educational services to be provided this year through the grant.

Allen displayed the new “Opportunity Guide” booklet that will be distributed free of charge to program participants. She also announced opportunities for participants to speak in person with trained volunteers about how to pursue their financial goals for the future and to receive financial education information and money management resources electronically on a year-round basis.

Perham-Whittier announced a Valentine’s Day-themed financial education night for couples called “For Love and Money” that will take place on Wednesday, February 11 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Lewiston Public Library. The workshop will consist of six 20-minute sessions, including “Budgeting for the American Dream,” to be presented by Jaimie Gutshall of Auburn Savings Bank, “What Does Your Credit Score Mean and How Is It Impacted,” to be presented by Lynda Jones of Key Bank, and “Setting Financial Goals and Saving When Money Is Tight,” to be presented by Laurie McDonnell of Women Work & Community. Those attending may win an overnight stay and breakfast for two at Lewiston’s new Hampton Inn.

IRS Stakeholder Relationship Consultant Tess Armstrong discussed the important tax credits that program volunteers will help participants apply for, including the Earned Income Tax Credit for working individuals and families who earn low-to-moderate income. The EITC is credited with lifting over 6 million people out of poverty, half of whom are children, each year. Armstrong encouraged anyone who earned $53,000 or less from wages, self-employment or farming in 2014 to see if they qualify for the EITC.

“The John T. Gorman Foundation is committed to ensuring that more Maine families have the tools they need to grow their incomes and begin saving for their futures and the futures of their children,” said Lauralee Raymond, Program Associate for the Gorman Foundation. “We couldn’t be more excited about this work and the opportunities it provides to hard working families across Maine.”

“Today’s economy can be tough for families,” concurred Lewiston City Council President Mark A. Cayer. “Through these volunteers, people are given a hand in securing all the tax credits they are eligible for, as well as an opportunity to chat with someone about their dreams and goals for their future.”

Auburn Community Development Coordinator Yvette Bouttenot wrapped up the event by addressing the issue of home ownership. “I am now working with three potential homebuyers, two of whom take advantage of this free tax preparation service,” she said. “The tax refunds they receive will go into their home savings accounts, which will become the down payment on the home they will buy.

“Increasing homeownership in our cities will build a stronger community,” she concluded. “Congratulations to the LA CA$H Coalition for helping to build a stronger Lewiston and Auburn.”

Since the 2004 tax season, the LA CA$H Coalition has helped return over $22 million in Federal and State income tax refunds to L-A-area residents. The Coalition’s efforts are funded by a statewide VITA grant and support from Key Bank and the John T. Gorman Foundation.

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