The Pine Bluff Wealth Building coalition, made up of the Arkansas Community Organization, United Way of Southeast Arkansas, Delta Sigma Lambda Chapter, Lakeside United Methodist Church Mi Casa Hispanic Ministry, and the Pine Bluff Interested Citizens for Voter Registration, Inc., will offer free advanced tax preparation for local residents who make $54,000 or less per year, the coalition announced Monday at the Donald W. Reynolds Community Services Center.

Rev. Jesse Turner of the Pine Bluff Interested Citizens for Voter Registration, Inc. helped to coordinate the event and said that last year's volunteers helped area residents receive more than $500,000 in refunds.

“We returned (that money) back into the pockets of low-income people,” Turner said. “We will continue this process of doing peoples taxes free of charge. There are certain things they will have to bring, but we will do the taxes free of charge.”

Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington was on hand to help announce the annual event, noting that the program helps to return money to the local economy.

“I'm so excited about this diverse coalition kicking off the volunteer income tax assistance program in Pine Bluff, better known as VITA,” Washington said. “I like the fact that this program is helping provide resources and helping to build our economy with the money that it is bringing back to our citizens.”

Washington said the program assists low-income families, those with disabilities, the elderly and those who have issues speaking the English language.

Yuridia Mondragon with the Lakeside United Methodist Church Mi Casa Hispanic Ministry said that her team is working to help inform the Hispanic community of the VITA program.

“We also help get the word out there for those Hispanic families,” Mondragon said. “The Hispanic families really don't know much about the coalition, so we are working to help get the word out there.”

Leslie Dorn, executive director for the United Way of Southeast Arkansas, said that the United Way always steps up to assist with organizations like VITA that are hosted in United Way communities.

“The United Way supports the VITA program in all communities where there is a United Way organization,” Dorn said. “United Way fights for the health, education and financial stability of every person in every community. Our agencies help provide people with financial education, tools to provide a more solid foundation, and to improve their lives and the lives of their children.”

Dorn said that 70 percent of taxpayers qualify for the VITA program.

“Tax refunds are often the largest single check families receive during the year,” Dorn said. “These can be used to pay bills, buy groceries, or to even save for the future. In the United States, 70 percent of filers are eligible for free tax preparation, but they don't necessarily take advantage of it, potentially paying to access tax credits, and further deductions for the earned income tax credits that they are eligible for. The money that is saved on tax preparation by doing it with volunteers from VIDA puts more money back into our local economy and community.”

Tax preparation assistance is available by visiting the Donald W. Reynolds Community Services Center at 211 West 3rd Ave. in Pine Bluff. Those who qualify should call the PBICVR office at (870) 730-1131 to schedule an appointment.

LOCATIONS

• Arkansas Community Organizations, 3712 W. 34th Ave., by appointment Monday through Friday, 5-9 p.m./Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Details: 870-536-6300.

• Delta Sigma Lambda Kappa Fraternity, 1606 Lin Caru Drive, by appointment Tuesday through Thursday, 5-8 p.m./Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Details: 870-723-4262.

• Pine Bluff Interested Citizens for Voter Registration, Donald W. Reynolds Community Services Building, 211 W. Third Ave., Suite #109; by appointment Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Details: 870-730-1131.

• Mi Casa Hispanic Ministry, Iglesia Metodista Unida, Lakeside United Methodist Church, 1500 Olive St. (Translation offered by appointment.) Call: 870-850-0142, 870-939-9411 or fax: 870-534-6285.

Documents to bring:

For married filing joint, both spouses must be present; photo identification for the taxpayer (and spouse if married); Social Security cards or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number documents for the taxpayer (and spouse if married) and/or dependents;

Birth dates for the taxpayer, spouse and/or dependents; a copy of last year’s tax return; all form W-2, 1098, 1099, 1095-A, B or C (ACA Statements); information for other income; information for all deductions/credits; total paid to daycare provider and their tax ID number; and proof of bank account and bank’s routing number for direct deposit of refund.

If the person needs to file prior year returns, they should bring copies of income transcripts from the IRS (and state, if applicable.)