published Saturday, February 16th, 2013

Tax assistance program expands options this year

VITA TAX HELP SITES

CLEVELAND

Bradley Baptist Association, 2707 North Ocoee St.

Open: Monday, Tuesday,Thursday and Friday 4:30 to 8 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.;

By appointment only: 423-476-5493

Cleveland Community Center, 1334 Church St. SE

Open: Tuesday 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; Wednesday 2 to 5 p.m.; Thursday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Walk-in site

K-Mart at Bradley Square Mall, 200 Paul Huff Parkway

Open: Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Walk-in site

Lee University, 1120 North Ocoee St.

Open: Friday 2:30-5:30 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to noon

Walk-in site

Brainerd Recreation Center, 1010 N. Moore Road

Open: Monday, Wednesday and Thursday 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Walk-in site

CHATTANOOGA

Church Koinonia Federal Credit Union, 2319 East 23rd St.

Open: Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m

By appointment only: 423-629-5400

Consumer Credit Counseling, 2245 Olan Mills Dr.

Open: Thursday 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

By appointment only: 423-490-5620

Eastgate Mall, 5600 Brainerd Road

Open: Monday, Tuesday and Thursday 10 a.m to 6 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Walk-in site

Golden Gateway, 1201 Grove St.

Open: Wednesday and Thursday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Walk-in site

St. Andrews Center, 1918 Union Ave., Spanish site

Open: Monday, Tuesday and Friday 4 p.m to 6 p.m

Walk-in site

Lone Oak Community Center, 1278 U.S. Highway 127

Open: Monday through Thursday

By appointment only: 423-280-1394

Northgate Mall, 271 Northgate Mall,

Open: Monday 1 to 6 p.m.; Wednesday 12-4 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Walk-in site

Northside Neighborhood House, 211 Minor St.

Open: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday

By appointment only: 423-267-2217

Soddy-Daisy Senior Center, 190 Depot St.

Open: Tuesdays 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

By appointment only: 423-332-1702

Urban League of Greater Chattanooga, 730 E M.L. King Blvd.

Open: Tuesday and Thursday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Walk-in site

Chattanooga area residents can now visit one of 15 locations in the region to have their tax returns prepared for free, and organizers of the local Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program opened a new Spanish-speaking center this year.

The new location, at St. Andrews Center in Chattanooga, will focus on Spanish-speaking filers but will operate like any other site: offering free tax help to taxpayers whose household income was less than $51,000 in 2012.

"There's a large Hispanic population in Chattanooga, and we want to reach out to them," said Val Palmer, area coordinator of the VITA program at the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga. "We'll be saving a lot of money for them."

Every year, Palmer organizes a small army of volunteers to help area residents prepare and file their returns for free. Last year, she worked with 60 volunteers and filed 6,200 returns. That's about $8 million in refunds for area filers.

"What we're trying to accomplish here is to keep the low- and moderate-income families from paying for their returns," she said. "We want them to keep that money so they can get out of debt or use it to pay for important needs."

She estimates that each return a volunteer fills out saves the filer about $250. Volunteers go through an extensive training process in order to learn how to prepare the returns, she said, and are certified at levels ranging from basic to advanced returns.

Local Miriam Monzon is one of seven volunteers at the new Spanish-speaking location and said this is her first year preparing returns.

"I went to the training because I knew many of the Hispanic families here, and I knew what the needs were with these families," she said. "I figured it would be another way I could help."

She said most clients are happy to receive the help on their returns, especially since it is a free service.

Taxpayers who want to find the VITA site closest to them can call the city of Chattanooga at 311, the Urban League at 756-1762 or the IRS at 800-906-9887.

Filers can also visit www.irs.gov and search for "Volunteer Tax Help."

about Shelly Bradbury...

Shelly Bradbury covers police and crime in Chattanooga and Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She's been with the paper since 2012, working first as an intern and then as a business reporter. She is from Houghton, New York, and graduated from Huntington University in Huntington, Indiana, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in management. Before moving to Tennessee, Shelly previously interned with The Goshen News, The Sandusky Register and The Mint ...

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