IRS

Internal Revenue Service 1040 tax forms.

People who need help preparing their taxes can receive free assistance from Granite United Way’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, which serves New Hampshire and Windsor County, Vt., residents.

Citizens contributed $50,000 to support the program, which launched Jan. 29.

“This year we’ve had to roll this out a little differently, but we know how important this program is to the low- to moderate-income households we are helping,” said Patrick Tufts, president and CEO of Granite United Way, in a news release. “Last year we had to pivot to a virtual program in the middle of tax season, helping nearly 5,000 individuals and families complete their tax filing. We’ve used that experience to enhance our program this year.”

The free tax preparation program is available to individuals and families with household incomes up to $56,844, the upper income limit for the Earned Income Tax Credit, annually. Taxes are prepared by IRS-certified volunteers.

The United Way credited Citizens for contributing to the program’s growth over the years.

“Bolstering financial empowerment in our communities is a key part of our mission at Citizens,” said Joe Carelli, president of Citizens, New Hampshire and Vermont, in a statement. “Now more than ever, helping residents maximize their tax returns and keep more money in their pockets is essential to cover the essentials and build a stronger financial future.”

Some of the changes individuals will see this year include:

• Free tax filing through VITA will not happen face-to-face as in years past. Taxpayers can go to NHTaxHelp.org or dial 211 to connect with a VITA program that can assist them “virtually.”

• Several of the COVID-19 relief measures are being addressed through tax filing, including the stimulus (Economic Impact Payment); this is considered an advance payment on the new “Recovery Rebate Credit.” People who did not receive their full stimulus are able to claim it when they file a 2020 tax return.

• Unemployment affected many people this year and that may affect the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Tax filers may use their 2020 earned income or look back to their 2019 earned income to calculate the most favorable EITC.

“The VITA program is a critical tool that has enabled thousands to access supports like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), and this year there will be new questions for individuals who may have lost their employment due to COVID-19,” said Cary Gladstone, senior director of asset building strategies at Granite United Way.

According to the IRS, about 1-in-5 eligible New Hampshire residents fail to file for the EITC, leaving an estimated $37 million unclaimed.

Volunteers are still needed, and those interested can reach out to Gladstone at 625-6939, ext. 128.

Granite United Way also encourages self-filers with internet access to take advantage of www.MyFreeTaxes.com. It provides access to filing software at no cost and a toll-free number to call and chat line for tax questions. It is sponsored by United Way Worldwide and Tax Slayer.

The VITA program is a partnership with United Way, Citizens, the IRS and AARP Foundation Tax Aide.

Watch a video about the VITA program at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qjbOcgjaiEg&t=5s.