(Shreveport, LA) – An average of 55 percent of households across Northwest Louisiana are struggling to make ends meet. In response, United Way of Northwest Louisiana, in partnership with the Internal Revenue Service, promotes the annual free tax preparation options available to the public starting February 5. These programs, sponsored in part by Capital One, may help relieve the financial burden of tax preparation fees for thousands of local households.
Beginning February 5, seven local Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) sites will be open to the public. To qualify for free tax filing through the VITA program, individuals must earn less than $57,000. Volunteer tax preparers are IRS certified with extensive hours of training. They are trained to do simple returns with W-2 and 1099 forms (no itemized or business taxes).
Last year, United Way’s VITA sites worked diligently to overcome the obstacles caused by the pandemic. “Of course, none of the sites were prepared or equipped for the unexpected challenges of COVID-19. We were immediately faced with limiting contact with taxpayers, and volunteer concerns about safety. A lot of the volunteers are older individuals, so we lost our available helpers,” said Jarcelet Harris, Highland Center Ministries VITA site Coordinator & Shreveport Financial Empowerment Center Financial Counselor. “Fortunately, my site was participating in a pilot program through the IRS that allowed us to scan taxpayers’ documents into a secure file, and I had one virtual preparer working from home. This was a Godsend!” Despite the challenges of COVID-19, during the 2020 tax season, 4,922 taxpayers were served and managed to save over $1.3 million in preparation fees. In total, these free tax preparation programs issued $7,073,903 of federal refunds to taxpayers.
VITA locations are made up of area churches, community centers, an independent living facility, and more. There are designated sites for active military and a Spanish-speaking interpreter is available upon request. Due to safety concerns caused by COVID-19, each location is taking the necessary precautions to keep volunteers and taxpayers safe by practicing social-distancing, holding virtual sessions, and using personal protective equipment.
If qualifying residents prefer to file their own state and federal taxes, MyFreeTaxes.com offers free filing software online. United Way has partnered with TaxSlayer, which powers MyFreeTaxes.com to help people easily and accurately file their state and federal taxes online. MyFreeTaxes.com is a safe, easy, and free way to file for taxpayers regardless of their income. This software is available across the United States.
The following locations will operate as a VITA site during the 2021 tax season and subject to change. Please call your preferred site for hours of operation and to learn more about safety precautions being taken to provide service amidst COVID-19. Please note that some sites and days are by appointment only:
2021 VITA LOCATIONS
Free tax preparation sites open Feb. 5 through April.
Barksdale Air Force Base – MILITARY
2nd Bomb Wing Tax Center, Barksdale AFB 71110
Caddo Community Action Agency – David Raines
1625 David Raines Road, Shreveport, LA 71107
Caddo Community Action Agency – St. Vincent
4055 St. Vincent Avenue, Shreveport, LA 71108
Creighton Hill Community Development Corporation
510 High Street, Minden, LA 71055
318-949-5768 or 913-269-5493
Highland Center Ministries VITA Site
520 Olive Street, Shreveport, LA 71104
Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church VITA Site
Operated by: Sadies Arms, Inc.
5340 Jewella Avenue, Shreveport, LA 71109
New Horizons Independent Living Center
1701 North Market, Shreveport, LA 71107