With about a month left in tax season the Los Banos Salvation Army is making a push to inform the public that some of its voluteers can prepare tax returns for free.
Sandy Lemas, a Salvation Army volunteer, told Community Resource Council members Wednesday about the service she and two other volunteers provide.
“We’re really helping a lot of low-income families get earned income credit, which really helps the economy out. It’s definitely an economic-development tool.”
Salvation Army volunteers have prepared taxes for free since 2011. They go through online training and prepare tax returns for residents whose annual income is $52,000 or less.
Lemas said many poor people do not file taxes because they mistakenly believe they did not earn enough money during the year to receive a refund.
“We lose like $3 million to $5 million a year that is not claimed in Merced County,” Lemas said.
She said most of the returns done at the Salvation Army are not complicated, but she and the other preparers have the ability to do more complex tax forms. Lemas said her group does not do taxes for people with a lot of rental property.
Last year the Salvation Army prepared taxes for 200 people, including a few tax filings from previous years.
“A lot of people think they don’t have to (file taxes) until they get a letter from the IRS,” she said.
Lemas said so far this year the Salvation Army has prepared 160 tax returns.
The Salvation Army does tax preparation Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturday by appointment. However, Lemas said, she does try to accommodate people who are unavailable during those hours.
“I try to be very flexible,” she said.
For more information call the Salvation Army at (209) 827-4945 or visit the facility at 1231 Fourth St.