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RICHARD A. STEVENSONOne of my least favorite times of year is upon us. Not only is the weather still chilly and dreary, it is tax time. As most of you know already, Federal and State income tax returns are due on Monday, April 15. Many of us struggle with filling out those tax forms and could use some help.

But, we also don't want to spend a bunch of money or don't have the money to pay for tax help. If we are getting a refund, we don't want that refund eaten up by tax preparation and other fees often charged by commercial tax preparation services. There is a solution to this dilemma.

Several free tax preparation sites are located within Wayne Township and Allen County for low and moderate income individuals. The sites are open on different days of the week and at different times for persons making below $57,000 a year or persons who are over 60 years old.

For example, AARP is offering free tax preparation help mainly for seniors on Tuesdays from noon to 4 p.m. at the Waynedale branch library on Lower Huntington Road and on Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Shawnee branch library. The Shawnee library is on Noll Avenue just off of Calhoun Street near the intersection with the Airport Expressway. AARP has several other sites including being open from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Community Center downtown at 233 West Main Street.

The Allen County Financial Stability Partnership offers several free tax preparation sites too. Their locations include CANI, 227 East Washington Blvd., and St. Mary's Catholic Church, 1101 Lafayette St. The CANI site is open Mondays and Tuesdays from 6 to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 to 1 p.m., while the St. Mary's location is open Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from noon to 3 p.m.

To take advantage of one of the free tax preparation programs, you should bring a picture identification; Social Security cards or ITIN numbers for everyone in the family; W2's, unemployment and 1099 forms; name and address of landlord or property tax information; child care expenses with name, address and Social Security number of provider; bank account information, and a copy of last year's tax return, if possible.

Most of the tax preparation sites do not require appointments and several have Spanish and Burmese translators. Those seeking additional information about the tax preparation sites may call 211. One of the reasons taxpayers should use the free tax preparation sites is that not all taxpayers are aware of the tax credits that may be available for them, Jean Joley, Executive Director of the Volunteer Center, explained. Taxpayers may end up paying higher taxes than necessary if they don't take advantage of every possible credit.

We are very careful here at Wayne Township to inform every client about the free tax preparation programs. Pursuant to our Eligibility Standards, any money spent by clients to have their taxes prepared may be deducted from their Township Assistance. That is because clients should not waste money paying for a service they could receive for free.

We further advise clients that they should use any money they might receive as a tax refund first toward paying for their basic necessities or they could be denied assistance. This may sound a bit harsh, but it only makes sense. Along with our role of providing assistance for those in need, we must be mindful of our role as guardian of taxpayers' funds. So, if a client has the money in the form of a tax refund to pay for his or her basic necessities, the client should use that refund for that purpose.

Richard A. Stevenson, Sr.
Wayne Township Trustee
www.waynetownship.org


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