A few reasons to like tax time

Filing taxes – such a drag.

I can’t believe I’m blogging about it; I’m even at a loss for how to write about it in a way that will be interesting. For many people, though, filing taxes is akin to receiving a windfall.

When one’s income is under a certain level, they’re eligible to take advantage of the free tax sites that are offered each year.  Sponsored by the IRS, they’re called Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites and run entirely by volunteers. They electronically file applicable state and federal taxes, even from previous years. This service has been indispensable for people (like me) to make sure my taxes are done quickly and correctly, especially since I live in one state, work in another, and have to file in both. (Actually, I had to pay taxes in both states, but I only vote in one. How does that work?)

Since I’ve been a “nontraditional” graduate student for the past four years, I was eligible for this windfall through student credits.  The two that initially come to mind are the HOPE/American Opportunity Credit, and the Lifetime Learning Credit. These are both meant to offset student expenses and tuition, and this includes paying for another student, like one’s child or spouse. I received those student credits that gave me a *phat* federal return. Each year, I’ve been the first one in line to file and was practically skipping to the car when I left.

A few years ago, I was an AmeriCorps*VISTA volunteer and many people in my cohort claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit. This is a credit for people who are receive income through work (things like disability benefits don’t qualify) and the annual amount falls under a certain level.  There’s also a state credit called a circuit breaker based on the rent one has paid throughout the year. I’ve never done either of these last two, but I’ve had clients that base their whole annual income on receiving a circuit breaker or the EITC.  They can pay off past bills and put it towards other life maintenance needs. Then there are child credits and property credits that I don’t even know about, but I’m sure they make a difference for people.

Every year, I love that these credits are available for people and think they’re positive and person-affirming ways to assist people with financial challenges. Actually, volunteering at one of these places is a great way that someone can help others, particularly since so many of the users are toeing the line of poverty. Just call the United Way for info about something near you. Next year.

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