Certified Houghton University students again providing free income tax preparation

Houghton University students have returned to providing income tax preparation and e-filing assistance for qualifying Allegany County residents, with other free filing aids also being available through other county resources.

Elianna McHenry, assistant accounting professor, said that 5:30PM and 7:30PM Monday evening appointments are being scheduled through April 8 with students who have been certified as Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) providers by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Community members must be United States citizens with low-to-moderate incomes, generally $54,000 or less, to obtain the services.

Filing assistance includes that for the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which is available to adults under 65 years of age who have received any amount of wages, no matter how insignificant, during the past year.

Refund without owing taxes
The EITC provides refundable credits of up to $7,430 to filers, based on a sliding scale, even if someone hasn’t earned enough to pay income taxes, with maximum eligibility to obtain the credit for married couples being $63,698.

The IRS reports that over 20 percent of eligible individuals fail to receive these refunds each year because they are unaware of the credit or don’t believe they qualify, resulting in losses for both the individuals and to businesses within the area which are likely to receive much of the revenue in payments for goods and services.

Houghton was forced to shut down its student tax preparation assistance previously after the Allegany County United Way, under which it was working, started a merger process with Cattaraugus County and ended the service.

The University then went through a process of certification to re-start the community benefit.

“This program excites me for many reasons,” says McHenry. “Just one of the reasons is the ability to serve some underserved residents of our community by helping them work through this often complicated process.

“Our expertise gives us a unique set of gifts that we ultimately get to share with our community for their benefit,” she said.

Students, who must pass three IRS exams to gain certification, also learn practical skills and contribute to the well-being of their fellow community members, she added.

Additional information and appointments are available from McHenry at (585) 567-9447 or Elianna.McHenry@Houghton.edu.

Services for 55-and-over
In addition to the general population tax preparation service, low-to-moderate income individuals 55-and-over are eligible for assistance from a second IRS initiative, Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE).

Appointments to receive that service at the Belmont office of the Allegany County Office for the Aging at 6085 State Route 19 North, can be made for 9AM to noon and 1PM to 3PM on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at (585) 268-9390.

In a third initiative, the IRS is providing free online e-filing assistance, through guided software, for taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes of $79,000 or less, along with fillable forms for those over that amount.

Information on this service is available at https://bit.ly/3OwyAkw.

A New York State free filing version is available at https://bit.ly/42wziEg.