The sun is shining, birds are chirping, temperatures are slowly rising, and the first green buds are peeking above the ground. Ahhh...spring is in the air. However, along with these lovely signs of the season, comes the deadline for income tax filing – April 17, 2012.
If you have been prudent about your tax prep, then the impending filing deadline shouldn’t scare you in the least. Many taxpayers have gathered their records, kept an eye out for tax-related mail, considered their filing options, and asked questions of the IRS. Some may even have their tax preparer waiting in the wings or be psyching themselves up for doing it on their own. A select few may have submitted their file already.
If you haven’t been quite as pro-active in terms of your tax prep as you might have liked, you’re certainly not alone. Many people procrastinate when it comes to filing taxes and for a variety of reasons. Whatever your reason, as a credit union member, you have no cause to fret. As always, when it comes to financial matters, your credit union can help.
Affordable Tax Prep from Your Friendly Neighborhood Credit Union
Many credit unions are offering tax preparation services for free or at low-cost to those members who qualify. These services generally include basic tax prep for simple returns.
Ohio University Credit Union (Athens, OH) has been offering professional tax prep services to members as well as non-members for the past 9 years. Although not free, the service is extremely reasonable when compared to other CPA firms and H&R Block. According to Cory Corrigan, CPA and Financial Advisor as well as VP of Financial Services, the credit union also offers its senior members (age 50 and over) 10% off of tax services, while employees enjoy 50% off, and members who visit the CU for tax services before Feb 29th receive a $10 discount.
“We prepare individual, small business, and corporate income tax returns – with all returns filed electronically, the service is fast, accurate, and dependable,” says Corrigan. It has been well-received by their membership as the credit union plans to prepare about 1,000 returns this year.
Members love the convenient, competent and complete tax prep services. “We make it extremely easy to use - members can come in for an appointment or simply drop off their information. We prepare the return and then have the member come back in to sign. The entire process takes them about 5 minutes because we do all of the work when they aren't here,” explains Corrigan.
According to Leigh Brady, CUDE and Senior VP of Education Services, the federal Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program is available for free to members and non-members. Low-cost tax prep services are offered for just members who still have a relatively simple tax return but whose income falls outside of the VITA threshold. SECU also offers Turbo Tax online with a 15% discount for members who want to complete their own return.
Certified SECU employees assist members with preparing and electronically filing simple federal and state returns through VITA or the CU’s low-cost service. No matter which program they may qualify for, members have the opportunity to save lots of money on tax prep fees using one of SECU’s services.
Brady says that credit union and community members are very appreciative of the programs. Last year, SECU completed more than 48,000 VITA returns and 5,000 Paid Tax Prep returns with numbers expected to increase in both areas this year. “Word-of-mouth advertising has taken hold and is the main reason for continued service growth in this area,” explains Brady.
This year SECU has also partnered with the NC Department of Revenue to offer loans to members participating in the NC Income Tax Debt Relief Program. “It’s a great partnership and brings additional value to members through a savings of fees and penalties associated with tax debt,” contends Brady.
Additionally, in a unique program, Local Government Federal Credit Union (Raleigh, NC) contracts with SECU to offer its members free and low-cost tax preparation services through VITA and SECU’s branch network. According to Erica Hinton, Communications Officer, through this partnership LGFCU has the opportunity to use SECU’s statewide branch and ATM network to help their members with tax services.
Just File It! Helping Those in Need at Tax Time
First Community Federal Credit Union (Kalamazoo, MI) has participated in the Just file it! We’ll Help. Free State and Federal Tax Preparation Resources Provided by Credit Unions Program for a number of years. According to Nancy Loftis, Marketing Manager, this free, tax-based software is promoted through the Michigan Credit Union League and features free online access to members (and non-members) who link through the credit union’s website.
Just File It! is available for anyone to access and features few limitations for those looking to file federal as well as State of Michigan taxes. It additionally helps individuals locate specific earned income tax deductions designated for low-income households.
First Community joined forces with more than 100 Michigan credit unions to promote Just File It! which allows families and individuals to file for state and federal tax credits that might otherwise be overlooked. The program returned over $13.8 million to individuals and families last year. “The need for a program like Just File It! is greater than ever,” said First Community’s President/CEO Cheryl DeBoer. “First Community Federal Credit Union is proud to join the network of credit unions and other nonprofits offering Just file it to help families put food on the table, move into better housing, invest in education or save for the future.”
Loftis says that so far 159 individuals have accessed the Just File it software from the CU’s website and have used it to return over $293,000 in Federal refunds, $70,300 in Earned Income Tax Credits and nearly $60,000 in Michigan State refunds. This software will be available through April 15, 2012.
“We also offer discounted access for Turbo Tax (10% discount) and Jackson Hewitt ($30 special offer) tax filing software, that can be accessed from our website,” adds Loftis.
CU-Sponsored Tax Help Abounds
Some other credit unions that offer free or low-cost tax services include:
So if you are in need of some tax-time assistance, look no further than your credit union. If you’re not a member, but would like to be part of a financial institution that provides valuable yet affordable professional services when you need them the most, find a credit union and join today.By Cyndi Cohen