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The Kansan - Newton, KS
  • Volunteers provide free tax help

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  • It's that time of year again — the start of the new year brings thoughts of tax season, and it also can bring stress from having to fill out complicated tax forms.
    However, volunteers at the Newton Public Library will once again be available to provide tax assistance to community members.
    For more than 30 years, the Newton Public Library has served as a tax preparation site under the IRS's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. VITA volunteers prepare federal and state tax returns for low to middle income taxpayers. There is no charge for this service.
    The library will offer tax help Feb. 5 through April 14. Volunteers will be available from 5:45 to 8:15 p.m. Mondays; 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Wednesdays; and 9:30 a.m. to noon Saturdays. This year's schedule is different from previous years.
    Changes in 2014
    Long-time VITA volunteer Cleta Smith said changes at the state level will affect taxpayers this year, particularly older and disabled taxpayers.
    "That's going to affect at least 25 percent of our people that have filed before — that's how major it is," Smith said. "People need to be really sure that they have to file."
    There will be homestead refunds for property owners only — not for renters. Food sales tax refunds will be available only to those who have Kansas tax liability (would owe income taxes to the state). Smith estimates most of the people who are used to receiving food sales tax refunds will not be receiving a refund this year.
    Sign up for services
    VITA volunteers can help taxpayers with an income level of $52,000 or less. Those with an income level of $57,000 or less can ask a VITA volunteer about a link they can use to file online on their own for free.
    A sign-up sheet for tax assistance will be available at 9 a.m. each VITA day. The library is unable to take appointments by phone, and they cannot take appointments or sign-ups for a future day.
    The library will have a limited supply of tax forms available in the foyer after the first of February. Smith requests community members not call library staff and ask for tax advice, unless it is during hours when VITA volunteers are available.
    Smith also asks community members to be patient as they wait for assistance. A larger number of people signing up or more complicated requests for assistance can lead to longer wait times.
    "We never know how long it's going to take because we don't know who's going to show up and with what," Smith said.
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