Bank offers free tax prep
Jan 27, 2012 | 2890 views | 0 0 comments | 34 34 recommendations | email to a friend | print
To give low-income working individuals and families the opportunity to have their income tax return prepared free of charge, Southern Bancorp and its nonprofit affiliate, Southern Bancorp Community Partners, are offering Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) at nine of Southern's bank branches in Arkansas and Mississippi. Since 2005, Southern has hosted VITA sites in the area in partnership with the IRS. Marking its seventh year, the free tax preparation services kicked off Jan. 13 and will run until April 17 at the selected VITA locations.

VITA is an IRS tax program providing free tax filing assistance to individuals and families with an annual earned income of $49,000 and below. Each of Southern's volunteer tax preparers is IRS-certified. All tax returns are filed electronically for free, which means refunds are processed in half the time of returns filed on paper, particularly for taxpayers using direct deposit for their refunds. In 2011, Southern helped more than 2,000 people file their taxes, many of which were eligible for tax credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit. While many paid tax preparers are advertising free tax services, they often encourage customers to purchase high cost products such as rapid refund anticipation loans.

"VITA sites, in general, are very beneficial to working families, especially in this current economy where most individuals and families have lost some income. Because the service is free, our families keep all the refund due to them. Our knowledgeable volunteers not only assist taxpayers with tax preparation, but also bring communities together," said Vida Fielder, VITA Program Administrator of Southern Bancorp Community Partners. "We believe individuals and families feel more comfortable at our VITA sites, and are able to ask questions about their taxes without feeling intimidated because our volunteers are part of the community."

To learn if you qualify for tax credits or if you’d like to schedule an appointment to file your taxes in your area, please visit Southern's website at http://southernpartners.org/asset-building/vita/. For more VITA sites in the region, visit the IRS Web site and search for "VITA" or call 1.800.829.1040.

Please remember to bring all necessary documentation when you come in to file your taxes. The required documents include: Social Security cards for yourself and your dependents; a picture ID; all W-2 forms; forms 1099-MISC (if applicable); forms 1098-T (out-of-pocket college payment); forms 1098 (mortgage interest payment); proof of day care payment from your provider; 2010 tax returns and bank account information; interest income (from your bank); and statements of charitable/church contributions.