Tax Assistance Available
Tax Day is less than a week away, and the state of California wants to help you make the deadline. Ellen Ciurczak reports.
Monday, April 10, 2006
The State Franchise Tax Board has 18 hundred VITA centers set up all around California. What’s a VITA center? It’s a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Center, and it is staffed with trained volunteers who can help Californians file their tax returns.
Jeanne Sibert is one of thousands of volunteers who took the specialized Internal Revenue Service training and are ready to offer qualified Californians federal and state income tax assistance for free.
Low-income residents, senior citizens, the disabled and those Californians who don’t speak English are eligible for the service.
John Chiang, Chair of the State Board of Equalization says the service is invaluable to residents who may not be familiar with tax law and don’t have the money to pay a tax preparer.
"We understand the tax code can be incredibly complex. The federal tax code has 3 and ½ million words. If you include regulations, that’s another 5 million words. The California tax code has about a million and ½ words, so how many people actually read the 10 million words in the tax codes? It’s understanding what obligations they my have, what deductions they may be missing, what credits they are entitled to, so we bring the expertise up front in assisting individuals who need that type of assistance."
With less than a week to go to tax day, appointments for the VITA services are filling up fast. Retiree Diane Costanza is glad she and her husband found out about the service this year from her local senior center:
We decided we didn’t have the 350 dollars to pay for our taxes to be made out, we’d see about the program, just see about it. It was great. I’m gonna do it next year.
Last year the Vita Centers processed about 190 thousand returns statewide. All returns are filed over computer, and this time of year, taxpayers can expect to get a refund, if they are entitled to one, within a week.
For taxpayers who don’t qualify for the Vita Center services, state tax officials still advise filing over computer, using the Cal-File system available on the Franchise Tax Board’s website. They say filing by mail will mean a four to six week wait for those eligible for a tax refund.
Meanwhile, state tax workers will be busy this week. Tax Day is April 17th, because the 15th falls on a Saturday. Between now and then, they expect to receive about 4 million tax returns.