Free tax prep available

Published 10:10 pm Wednesday, March 17, 2010

People who make less than $49,000 a year have another option for tax preparation help this year.

The S.T.O.P. Organization of Hampton Roads, in partnership with Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority, will provide free tax filing services for South Hampton Roads residents each Thursday through April 15 at the SRHA headquarters, 530 E. Pinner St., from 3 to 7 p.m.

Although the services are being held at SRHA headquarters, people do not have to be SRHA residents to use the service, said Shaun Scott, a program coordinator for the S.T.O.P. Organization.

“The reason why we are doing this program is we have a commitment to the community to provide awareness to help as many people as possible not have to pay to have their taxes prepared,” Scott said. “We serve the low to moderate income community. Times are tough. It is our desire to keep as much money as possible in their pocket.”

Scott said many tax preparation services charge fees, even for simple returns, that are too high for low-income people. In addition, those who make less are more likely to pay extra fees for rapid refunds or refund anticipation loans, which takes even more money out of their pocket, Scott said.

“A lot of people cannot afford to pay out of pocket or even have those high amounts of fees,” Scott said. “The important thing is that they’re able to keep their money in their pocket. They really can’t afford those costs.”

People who make less than $49,000 a year and have simple returns, including basic deductions and itemizations, will be eligible for the service. In addition to simply preparing axes, the S.T.O.P. personnel will also make sure customers are getting each credit they are entitled to receive, including credits for low to moderate income people such as the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Lana Pressley, an SRHA employee, encouraged residents to participate in the program because it is free.

“The benefit is the cost savings,” Pressley said, noting the service also is close to the SRHA developments.

Phyllis Harrison, another SRHA employee, said the free tax services could help turn around some families’ finances.

“We’re trying to encourage them to file their taxes in a more cost-effective way,” Harrison said. “Most of them are single parents. They are tight for money, and they’re paying money [for tax preparation] they could be using for other resources and things that they need.”

For more information on the program or to schedule an appointment, call 858-1360 or 539-2100, extension 326.