Beginning Feb. 3, the Cherokee Nation will offer its Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program to help eligible families prepare and file their 2019 state and federal income tax forms for free.
The VITA program has prepared and submitted nearly 18,000 tax returns in the past 10 years, helping taxpayers receive nearly $24 million in tax refunds, including earned income tax credits. Last year alone, the tribe’s VITA program helped more than 1,900 taxpayers by saving preparation fees averaging $225 that are normally charged for those services.
“This program is important for our communities and our tribal citizens. The money saved by not paying tax preparer fees can be used for paying bills, car repairs, taking a family vacation or saving for an emergency,” said Cora Lathrop, Cherokee Nation Commerce mortgage officer.
The Cherokee Nation has partnered with the IRS for over 40 years to provide the free tax preparation program to native and non-native families. To qualify for the service, an individual and household income must not exceed more than $56,000 per year. There is no jurisdictional boundary requirement to be eligible for this program.
This year, the service will run Feb. 3 through April 15. Volunteers from Cherokee Nation Commerce and Northeastern State University accounting students will be preparing the returns using the basic 1040 form. All returns will be e-filed by VITA at no charge. Appointments can be made at one of 13 tax preparation sites, including Tahlequah, Pryor, Westville, Stilwell, Sallisaw, Catoosa, Claremore, Jay, Salina, Muskogee, Vinita, Ochelata and Nowata. Walk-ins will also be accepted at the Westville and Tahlequah locations.
To use the service, families must provide a photo ID, original Social Security card and birth date for each person listed on the return; individual taxpayer identification numbers; W-2s, 1099s; a copy of the previous year’s tax return; documentation of deductions; and bank account information for direct deposit. Additional documents may be required.
For individuals or families with an annual income of $69,000 or less, the tribe’s Commerce department recommends preparing state and federal taxes online for free at www.myfreetaxes.com. For more information or to schedule an appointment, unless otherwise noted, call Cherokee Nation Commerce at 918-453-5536.
The following is a list of free area tax preparation sites:
• Tahlequah: Cherokee Nation Tsa-La-Gi Community Room, 17695 S. Muskogee Ave.; open 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday by appointment and walk-in. Not available Feb. 20, March 4-5.
• Westville: Westville Public Library, 116 N. Williams; open 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Feb. 18, March 10 and March 24 by walk-in only.
• Stilwell: Cherokee Nation Career Services, 219 W. Oak St.; open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesday by appointment only.