Organization to offer free tax help in March

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Now that everyone should have received their W-2s and other income documentation, it’s time to start planning for that great American tradition of filing out income tax forms. The task can be made a little easier this year, thanks to a program new to Socorro.

Beginning Saturday, March 1, seniors and lower income taxpayers will be able to take advantage of a free tax preparation service provided by New Mexico Community College’s Tax Help New Mexico.

The free service — for people whose household income is $52,000 or less and for those who are 65 years or older — is made possible by a partnership between CNM, the United Way of New Mexico and the VITA program of the Internal Revenue Service.

Jeffrey Ledbetter, Tax Help New Mexico’s Program Manager, said this is the first year the service has been available in Socorro.

“We have roughly 300 volunteers statewide at 26 sites,” he said. “Socorro is a brand new site this year. Our site coordinator in Socorro is Theresa Hollis. Since November she has recruited a number of qualified volunteers through announcements and word-of-mouth, all from the local community.”

Being the Federal Tax Compliance Manager at New Mexico Tech’s Budget and Analysis Department, Hollis is no stranger to pecuniary matters, and as the Tax Help New Mexico Socorro site coordinator, she has recruited eight preparers.

“Our volunteers are certified by the IRS,” Hollis said.

They are all trained to help taxpayers identify tax credits for which they’re entitled to.

“We are actually required to pass a certification test at an advanced level,” she said. “If you work here, you do what IRS wants.”

Hollis said that in addition to having certified preparers, their error rates are lower.

Ledbetter agrees. “At one of my test sites, Los Lunas High School, we had students who passed the certification exam, and they did amazing work,” he said. “We offer classes and they get college credit for volunteering in our program.”

The preparers come from all walks of life.

“We have a plethora of former IRS employees and many retirees from the financial industry,” he said.

To take advantage of this free service, you must present proper documentation including, but not limited to:

• A photo ID (driver license, state issued ID, passport, military ID, tribal ID)

• Social Security cards or Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) for yourself, your spouse, your dependents or anyone else on your return.

• All W-2 forms

• All 1099 forms (miscellaneous, interest, dividends, etc.)

• All 1098 forms (mortgage and tuition statements)

• Prior year tax return

“Our whole purpose is to make it easy for seniors and lower income taxpayers to file,” Hollis said. “We’re not here to charge people, just to be convenient. This is the crux of what we do — Offering our professional services.”