No-cost tax prep available for Tulare County residents

Community Services Employment Training offers tax preparation services for local, low-income households free-of-charge

TULARE COUNTY – Families and individuals who can’t afford to meet with a tax preparer this tax season can take advantage of a no-cost alternative to get their taxes filed.

Every year since 2006, Community Services Employment Training (CSET) has provided no-cost tax preparation services for moderate to low-income residents in Tulare County. The service is provided through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, which prepares free tax returns for households making less than $60,000 in annual income.

“Through poverty relief programs like VITA, CSET is lifting low-income people out of poverty in Tulare County by helping them maximize their tax refund and keep more of their hard-earned money,” Raquel Gomez, CSET division director of community initiatives, said.

According to Gomez, CSET tries to assist people in keeping their funds through the California Earned Income Tax Credits (CalEITC) grant. CalEITC offers support for low-income, working Californians and has potential to reduce the amount of tax owed. Low-income, working families and individuals have potential to receive the earned income tax credits if they are eligible for it.

CSET is a nonprofit agency established to fight the war on poverty by assisting individuals and communities in achieving self-reliance. Gomez said, as the county’s community action agency, CSET is committed to expanding resources that can help alleviate poverty in Tulare County.

The VITA program is an IRS-sponsored program that helps moderate to low-income individuals and families avoid high cost of tax preparation fees and save money for necessities like groceries and rent. According to Gomez, the program generates millions of dollars in refunds that stimulate the local economy when it’s spent amongst local merchants.

“We strongly partner with local organizations in Kern and Kings Counties to ensure low-income households and vulnerable populations, like seniors, people with disabilities, veterans and young people gain access to these services in the Central Valley,” Gomez said.

At CSET offices, taxes will be prepared on a first-come, first-serve basis and tax preparers will connect with their clients once the taxes are completed. The service started at the beginning of February and will end April 15. Preparers will ensure customers stay informed through the filing process and clients should expect to be contacted over the phone to review, schedule a pickup and receive authorization to e-file their forms. In-person tax preparation will vary depending on the availability of volunteers.

Anyone taking advantage of these free services can drop off their tax documents at a VITA location in Visalia, Culter, Tulare, Porterville or Pixley. Customers can download the checklist for required documents and intake forms at or customers can get a packet with the information at any of the VITA locations.

In Visalia, VITA sites are located at the CSET main office on 312 NW 3rd Ave and the Visalia Employment Connection at 4025 W Noble Ave, Suite B. The main street office is open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. but only drop off services are available during these times. On Saturdays, the office is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

At the Visalia Employment Connection site, the office is open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., but is closed for lunch from 12 to 1 p.m. The Cutler site is located at the Cutler-Orosi Senior Center at 12691 Ave 408. The office is open on Tuesdays from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., and is closed from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. It is also open on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The Tulare site is at the Tulare Family Resource Center and Employment Connection Affiliate at 304 E Tulare Ave and is open Tuesday through Saturday. Tuesday through Friday, the office is open from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and on Saturday it is open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

In Porterville, the site is at the Employment Connection at 1603 W Henderson Ave and is open Monday through Saturday. Monday through Friday, it is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and closed for lunch from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. On Saturdays, it is open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. In Pixley, the site is located at the Pixley CSET office at 927 S Center St and operates Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

According to Gomez, this tax season has started off slow due to hesitating volunteer counts at the offices, so wait times to get services can fluctuate. Anyone interested in volunteering for the VITA program can sign up through the CSET website. After signing up, individuals will receive their tax training online and are not required to have prior tax experience to volunteer.

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