By community affairs reporter Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHILA (CBS) — Community groups today opened dozens of free tax return preparation sites around the Delaware Valley and the South Jersey shore area, marking what they are calling “Earned Income Tax Credit Day,” named for the tax break which benefits lower-income Americans.

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Families earning $53,000 or less and individuals earning $20,000 or less will qualify for the free tax prep service at one of 30 sites in Philadelphia and South Jersey.

“Not only do we e-file, but we do direct deposits and we screen for benefits,” said Mary Arthur, executive director of the Campaign for Working Families, at the kickoff site: the Southwest CDC, on Paschall Avenue.

Arthur says her group is managing the tax prep sites, which provides IRS-certified volunteer tax preparers who, according to her, have helped families save $28 million in fees and get $236 million in refunds over the past 12 years.

“Dollars are really being given away and we’re here to say, you don’t have to spend money — we are going to get you your money,” she says.  “The IRS will get you your deposit just as fast.”

The Campaign for Working Families says one family in five, or roughly 40,000 in Philadelphia, do not file for their EITC each year, leaving millions of dollars on the table.

“It averages out about $2,500 per person in Philadelphia (that) we are able to create with families through this program,” says Kevin Dow, a vice president at the United Way.

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“I was able to save every penny that I rightfully deserve,” notes Sandi Tuazama, who works and takes care of his two children.  He has saved $1,500 in tax return preparation fees over five years through the free program and gets an average of $3,500 in refunds from his EITC.  “I am able to save up a lot for my kids,” he says.   “I was able to open up a 529 (savings) account for my kids’ college.”

 

(Sandi Tuazama now works as a volunteer tax preparer.  Photo by Cherri Gregg)

(Sandi Tuazama now works as a volunteer tax preparer. Photo by Cherri Gregg)

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For a list of the free tax sites, go to www.cwfphilly.org or www.unitedforImpact.org/VITA.

 

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