Local News

Wednesday, Mar 16 2011 05:31 PM

Trained volunteers offer free tax assistance

BY JEFF GOODMAN, Californian staff writer jgoodman@bakersfield.com

Free tax assistance geared toward low-income Kern County residents is available through a collaborative volunteer program that lasts until April 18.

The free help is available at 15 locations throughout the county and has been coordinated by United Way of Kern County for the last four years.

Related Info

VOLUNTEER INCOME TAX ASSISTANCE

The following is a list of VITA locations in Kern County (all sites are in Bakersfield unless noted in parentheses):

WEEKDAYS

Aging & Adult Senior Center

5357 Truxtun Ave. (near Mohawk Street)

Phone: 868-1000

Appointments only: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays

Community Action Partnership of Kern

1002 Wible Road (near Belle Terrace)

Phone: 834-1724

Appointments and walk-ins: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Friday

Mexican American Opportunity Foundation

2001 28th St. (near F Street)

Phone: 336-6966 or 855-477-4221

Appointments only: 8:30 a.m. to noon and 2 to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday

Note: appointments not available March 31

Vida Scott Center

1101 E. Belle Terrace (near Cottonwood Road)

Phone: 336-6966 or 855-477-4221

Appointments and walk-ins: 1 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday

Note: No services March 31

Community Action Partnership of Kern (Lamont)

7915 Burgundy Ave., Lamont

Phone: 834-1724

Appointments and walk-ins: 3 to 8 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays

SATURDAYS

Community Action Partnership of Kern

1002 Wible Road (near Belle Terrace)

Phone: 834-1724

Appointments and walk-ins: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays

Cornerstone Community Church

3311 Manor St. (near North Chester Avenue)

Phone: 336-6966 or 855-477-4221

Appointments and walk-ins: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays

Housing Authority of Kern County, Adelante Vista

1102 S. Robinson St. (near East California Avenue)

Phone: 336-6966 or 855-477-4221

Appointments and walk-ins: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 2

Housing Authority of Kern County, Plaza Towers

3015 Wilson Road (near Wible Road)

Phone: 336-6966 or 855-477-4221

Appointments and walk-ins: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 26

Housing Authority of Kern County, Rio Vista

18 McArthur Place (near Roberts Lane)

Phone: 336-6966 or 855-477-4221

Appointments and walk-ins: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 16

Housing Authority of Kern County, Village Park

2300 R St. (near 23rd Street)

Phone: 336-6966 or 855-477-4221

Appointments and walk-ins: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 19

Kern Regional Center

3200 Sillect Ave. (near Gilmore Avenue)

Phone: 336-6966 or 855-477-4221

Appointments only: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 19, April 2 and April 16

Housing Authority of Kern County (Arvin)

112 Richard St., Arvin, CA 93203

Phone: 336-6966 or 855-477-4221

Appointments and walk-ins: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 9

Community Action Partnership of Kern (Delano)

925 10th Ave., Delano, CA 93215

Phone: 834-1724

Walk-ins: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays

First Southern Baptist Church (Shafter)

250 Kern St., Shafter, CA 93263

Phone: 336-6966 or 855-477-4221

Appointments and walk-ins: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 26 and April 16

Sources: United Way of Kern County, Californian research

More than 6,000 returns are expected to be filed this tax season at local Volunteer Income Tax Assistance sites, said Rachel Almaraz, United Way's community impact and investment manager.

Roughly 75 volunteers are participating in the effort this year, she said.

Many of the volunteers, including about a dozen students from Cal State Bakersfield, have gone through 40 hours of training to be certified by the Internal Revenue Service to help taxpayers prepare and file tax returns.

"Most people volunteer because they enjoy it and they want to help serve the community," Almaraz said.

The initiative saved Kern County residents an estimated $430,000 in tax preparation fees last year, Almaraz said.

Clients must bring proof of identification as well as Social Security cards and earning statements from all employers. Many of the VITA sites also provide free electronic filing.

The VITA program runs through April 18, this year's deadline for filing taxes. The deadline is slightly delayed because Emancipation Day, a public holiday in Washington, D.C., will be observed April 15.

On a separate note, people who last year earned less than $48,362 might be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit program, which distributes refunds to taxpayers based on marital status and number of children.

For more details about the VITA program, see the accompanying list of program sites or call the county's free information service at 211.

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