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Free tax help available to low-income Chicagoans

by Alex Parker on January 26, 2011

To help people navigate this year’s new tax rules and get back what they’re owed, LISC/Chicago’s New Communities Program has begun offering tax preparation consultation that will continue through Tax Day, Monday, April 18.

Unlike the costly services or high-interest refund-anticipation loans available elsewhere, help at these centers costs nothing.

“Tax time is stressful for all of us, and especially so for people who struggling financially,” said Susana Vasquez, director of the New Communities Program (NCP) for LISC/Chicago. “But the truth is that because of programs like the Earned Income Tax Credit and some of the new economic recovery plans, low-income families don’t need to worry about being excessively burdened by owing taxes. Many of them will be eligible for refunds, which they can get quickly and easily through electronic filing and direct deposit.”

The free tax preparation consultations, provided by professionals from the Center for Economic Progress, are available to families earning less than $50,000 a year or individuals earning less than $25,000. Between saving people on the fees they might have paid a professional tax preparer and helping them make sure they take advantage of all the refunds and credits available to them, these free services could put thousands more dollars in the pockets of local taxpayers.

There are nine sites located throughout Chicago; five of them are hosted at NCP locations. Many sites opened for tax preparation last weekend, but others will open Jan. 29. Clients should call in advance to ensure appointments are available, as some centers will be closed for certain days in March.

The sites that opened Jan. 22 are located in Auburn-Gresham, the Loop, Pilsen and Uptown. On Saturday, sites in Ashburn, Lawndale, Quad Communities (in Grand Boulevard), Uptown and West Garfield Park will open. A site in West Haven will operate on Saturday, March 5.

To take advantage of the free services, you must bring all relevant tax documents, including all W-2s and 1099 forms (if any); Social Security cards or Individual Taxpayer Identification numbers for all family members; a valid photo ID; a copy of last year’s tax return, if available; your bank account number and routing number to direct deposit your refund; property tax bill; and amount spent on college expenses.

The sites, their start dates and hours are:

Ashburn
Richard J. Daley College
7500 S. Pulaski Rd.
(773) 838-7500
Opens Jan. 29
Monday & Wednesday, 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Saturday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Auburn-Gresham
St. Sabina Employment Center
7909 S. Racine Ave.
Opens Jan. 22
Monday & Thursday, 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Saturday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Lawndale
Homan Square Community Center
3517 W. Arthington Ave.
(773) 783-3760
Opens Jan. 29
Monday & Wednesday, 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Saturday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Loop
Harold Washington College
(312) 553-5600
30 E. Lake St.
Opens Jan. 22.
Monday through Thursday, 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Saturday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Pilsen
Instituto del Progreso Latino
2570 S. Blue Island Ave.
(773) 890-0055
Opens Jan. 22
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Saturday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Quad Communities
Dawson Technical Institute
3901 S. State St.
(773) 451-2000
Opens Jan. 29
Monday through Thursday, 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Saturday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Uptown
Truman College
1145 W. Wilson Ave.

(773) 907-4000
Opens Jan. 22
Monday through Thursday, 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Saturday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

West Garfield Park
Bethel New Life Center
4006 W. Lake St.
(773) 826-8430
Opens Jan. 29
Tuesday & Thursday, 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Saturday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

West Haven
Malcolm X College
1900 W. Van Buren St.
(312) 850-7000
Saturday, March 5 ONLY
10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Funded with a major grant from the MacArthur Foundation, the New Communities Program is a long-term initiative of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation/Chicago to support comprehensive community development in 16 Chicago neighborhoods. NCP seeks to rejuvenate challenged communities, bolster those in danger of losing ground and preserve the diversity of areas in the path of gentrification.

For more information on the free tax preparation sites, contact the Center for Economic Progress at 312-252-0280.

For more information on LISC/Chicago’s New Communities Program, visit www.newcommunities.org.

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