CSET offers free tax prep for low income residents

CSET is recruiting volunteers for its income tax assistance program; no prior experience is required


VISALIA – The coming of the new year invariably means a wrap up of the previous year, both in terms of social and financial inventory. In other words, in time to think about getting ready to file taxes.

That can be a daunting task for those who can’t afford professional tax preparation services, but one local non profit is making sure getting your taxes together doesn’t cost you more than what you might get in return.
Community Services Employment Training (CSET) is now recruiting volunteers to assist with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA). VITA provides no-cost tax preparation and electronic filing services to Tulare County households with less than $54,000 annual income. Approximately 200 volunteers are needed for the 2019 VITA program year.

Tax preparation services will be provided in the communities of Cutler, Porterville, Tulare, Visalia and some rural areas of Tulare County. Bilingual volunteers are greatly needed for this high impact volunteer opportunity perfect for civic-minded individuals. Retired financial professionals make excellent volunteers as well as high school youth and adults exploring careers in finance and customer service related fields.

“CSET is proud to be in our 14th year of providing high-quality tax preparation services to Tulare County families and individuals,” said CSET Executive Director Mary Alice Escarsega-Fechner. “The VITA program is a great opportunity for local residents to get involved in their community and truly make a difference in many people’s lives.”

All volunteers complete a training course to become an IRS-certified volunteer tax preparer. The four-week training begins Saturday, January 5, 2019 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and will be held every Saturday in January at CSET’s main office in Visalia and the Porterville Employment Connection. Tax preparation services are offered to the public beginning February 2 through April 13, 2019.

“Volunteering for the VITA program opened a new career path for me,” said Jonathan Court, a 2nd year VITA volunteer. “I was enrolled in CSET’s #LEAD program when I started volunteering, and I uncovered a whole new world of business that VITA inspired me to pursue. I eventually found an internship at a local CPA firm and may have a job waiting for me there, all thanks to VITA.”

Many families may also qualify for the California Earned Income Tax Credit (CalEITC). The CalEITC is a cash back tax credit for low-income families. Volunteers will be trained to help qualified residents receive the CalEITC.
In tax year 2018, VITA volunteers filed more than 3,000 tax returns, bringing more than $3.8 million back to Tulare and Kings County residents. More information and an application form can be found online by visiting www.cset.org/vita. Interested volunteers may also contact VITA Program Director Albert Cendejas at (559) 741-4626 or albert.cendejas@cset.org.

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