VITA to help locals get past tax-filing hump

Tax season is underway, and some people could receive free tax preparation service through the Voluntary Income Tax Assistance program.

Despite countless TV commercials and ad campaigns claiming certain services will make tax season quick and painless, most filers know doing tax returns at home can be anything but.

And with recent changes to Americans’ income due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this might be the best year yet to seek financial advice.

The Cherokee Nation is again offering free tax preparation service for certain individuals who qualify. Through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program – through Cherokee Nation Commerce – low- to moderate-income families with household incomes under $57,000 can receive help at no cost.

“Cherokee Nation’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program prepares and electronically files tax returns for both state and federal taxes at no cost to the participant,” said Anna Knight, executive director of CN Commerce Services. “This program saves families an average of $200 in tax service fees, and electronic returns with direct deposit are the fastest way to receive tax refunds. Last year, we filed 1,962 and helped people claim $2.7 million in tax refunds, including earned income tax credits.”

Native and non-Native families can participate in the VITA program, and can start calling to make appointments immediately. Appointments will start Feb. 1. The last day to file tax returns is April 15. Last year, the filing deadline for people’s 2019 returns was extended three months due to the pandemic. It’s unclear whether the Internal Revenue Service will choose to extend the deadline again, so it’s never too soon to get started on returns.

Those who take advantage of the program will need to bring a photo ID, Social Security Card, and date of birth 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.

“Based on individual returns, preparers may request more documentation,” said Knight.

All of the tribe’s tax preparation will be by appointment only this year. Filers can call 918-453-5536 to make appointments. Masks must be worn at all times, and clients will be asked to check in when they arrive and to wait in their vehicles until they are contacted to come into the office. Plexiglass shields will be used for all appointments and appropriate cleaning protocols will take place between appointments.

“All necessary precautions will be in place to keep our employees and clients safe,” said Knight.

Families with household income less than $72,000 can also file their taxes online for free at olt.com. According to Knight, the site is approved by the IRS and will file both federal and state taxes.

Trending Video