Campaign offering free tax preparation to taxpayers


Forget trips to the Internal Revenue Service office to get forms. Tax preparers with the Dollars & $ense Campaign will file your taxes by computer, thus eliminating the need for paper forms.

AIDA MALLARD/Special to the Guardian
Published: Thursday, January 31, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 30, 2008 at 4:39 p.m.

You can get your taxes done for free by volunteers trained by the Internal Revenue Service and get your refund back in five to seven days.

“People can get their taxes done for free and get their money in seven days,” said Nona Jones, chairman of the Dollars & $ense Campaign, formerly the Heart of Florida Prosperity Campaign.

A campaign kickoff featuring remarks by Gainesville Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan and other city officials, as well as tax information and refreshments will be held at 2:30 p.m. Thursday at the City Hall Auditorium at 200 E. University Ave.

To get free tax preparation, Woods said taxpayers can make an appointment by calling 211, the United Way’s social service hotline, or they can simply show up at one of the tax preparation sites. The sites are:

  • Santa Fe Community College Blount Center, 41 NE 6th St., 6-9 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, beginning Monday through April 10. This location will be closed March 10-15 for Spring Break.

  • The Department for Children & Families, 1000 NE 16th Ave. Building J., 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, beginning Thursday through April 14.

  • PASSAGE Family Church, 2020 NE 15th St., 5:30-7:30 p.m. Thursdays, beginning Thursday through April 12.

  • Levin School of Law Library at the University of Florida, 2500 SW 2nd Ave., 5-9 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, Feb. 12-April 10. (Closed for Spring Break, March 10-17)

    Taxpayers should bring all pertinent information, such as W-2 forms, Social Security cards for themselves and their children, and any other documents showing money received and taxes paid.

    By taking advantage of free tax preparation, Woods said people can save $200-$300 they may otherwise have to pay to have their taxes done. She said last year, people didn’t get all of the tax benefits they were entitled to receive, such as the $30 telephone credit that was available to anyone who paid for telephone service, even if they didn’t file taxes. She said people who didn’t get the telephone credit last year can file for it this year.

    Jones, chairman of Dollars & $ense cautioned that companies that front people money on their taxes are actually giving them a loan and charging them 100-200 percent interest.

    “They are basically paying for their refund,” said Jones. “It’s a predatory (scheme) targeting the low-income community.”

    “We’re also are offering free financial counseling,” said Woods, “and we are giving them pointers in things like budgeting so that they can make their money grow.”

    “We offer a series of courses,” said Dr. Karen Cole-Smith, director for Santa Fe Community College Outreach and the East Gainesville Initiative. “If they want us to provide a program, they have to let us know in advance, but we have to have 8-10 people willing to learn.”

    To schedule financial empowerment classes, call Cole-Smith at (352) 381-3840.

    The Dollars & $ense Campaign is a community-based coalition led by the East Gainesville Development Corporation in partnership with Wachovia Bank, SFCC Eastside Initiative, the UF Levin College of Law, the United Way of North Central Florida, the city of Gainesville, the Department of Children and Families District 3, the IRS and the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce.

    Now in its fourth year, Jones said the campaign has returned nearly $ 2 million in income taxes to the community, with the Earned Income Tax Credit accounting for more than $500,000.

    “We have served more than 3,400 clients since 2004, and we are looking to add another 1,000 to the list,” said Jones. “The partnership we have forged this year among area non-profit agencies is unprecedented, and I am confident that we will reach every goal for this campaign.”

    For more information, call Jones at (352) 870-2808.

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