CN volunteers to begin free tax prep Feb. 5

BY TRAVIS SNELL
Assistant Editor – @cp_tsnell
12/18/2017 09:00 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Cora Lathrop Cherokee Nation mortgage loan officer and Volunteer Income Tax Assistance coordinator, helps Eric and Christy Young of Tahlequah, Oklahoma, file their taxes as part of the tribe’s free VITA program. ARCHIVE
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Cora Lathrop, Cherokee Nation mortgage loan officer and Volunteer Income Tax Assistance coordinator, left, instructs VITA volunteers on how to prepare federal and state tax returns. The tribe each year helps people who meet income guidelines prepare state and federal tax returns for free. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Skip the headache and upset stomach of doing tax returns yourself by having trained Cherokee Nation volunteers prepare them. The tribe is offering free tax preparation services from Feb. 5 to April 12 at various locations. MARK DREADFULWATER AND TRAVIS/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – It’s 2018, and the new year means tax season. And the Cherokee Nation will once again help individuals within its 14-county jurisdiction with tax preparation through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance service.

Cora Lathrop, CN mortgage loan officer and VITA coordinator, said each year the tribe works with the Internal Revenue Service to train volunteers how to provide free, basic, income tax return preparation for low-to-moderate income taxpayers.

She said the tribe generally offers aid to all people, not just its citizens, who annually make $60,000 or less and need assistance preparing tax returns.

“This is an IRS program. Cherokee Nation partners with IRS to offer free assistance because we want to help community members save the exorbitant fees charged by businesses,” Lathrop said. “Many (businesses) charge between $50 and $400 for simple forms that VITA sites can prepare. This program is designed to help lower-income people save tax preparation fees.”

The tribe’s VITA service is expected to run from Feb. 5 to April 12. No appointments will be made before Jan. 15. The VITA locations will be in Tahlequah, Stilwell, Claremore, Sallisaw, Salina, Westville, Catoosa, Jay, Muskogee, Vinita, Ochelata, Nowata and Pryor.

“VITA sites are generally located at community and neighborhood centers, libraries and other convenient locations,” Lathrop said.

All locations are by appointment only excluding the Tahlequah and Westville locations, which takes walk-in filers.

When filing this year, Lathrop said the Affordable Care Act, known as ObamaCare, would play a part in people’s 2017 tax returns.

“You will need to answer if everyone in your household had insurance during 2017. Each individual has to have insurance, adult and child or be eligible for an exemption,” Lathrop said.

She said volunteers not only prepare and file tax returns but they also inform taxpayers about special tax credits for which they may qualify such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit.

According to IRS.gov, the 2017 EITC’s maximum adjusted gross income with three or more qualifying children is $48,340 ($53,930 if married filing joint) with the maximum credit at $6,318.

Lathrop also said tax returns are filed electronically, which allows refunds to be deposited into taxpayers’ accounts within 10 days if using direct deposits.

“The IRS has announced that any return claiming Earned Income Credit will not receive tax refunds before Feb. 15. The IRS is working hard to reduce tax fraud. Some refunds can take up to 21 days while the IRS is double-checking returns. Returns claiming Earned Income Credit and the additional Child Tax Credit will be affected,” she added. “You can use the Where’s My Refund? tool and the IRS2Go phone app to check the status of your refund.”

Individuals can also prepare and file their own federal and state taxes for free online if their respective incomes are under $64,000 at www.freemytaxes.com.

For more information, call 918-453-5536. To find a VITA site anywhere in the United States, call toll free 1-800-906-9887 or visit http://irs.treasury.gov/freetaxprep/.


What You Need To Bring

Proof of Identification (photo ID)

Social Security Cards for you, spouse and dependents

Wage and earning statements (form W2, W-2G, 1099-R, 1099-Misc) from all employers

Interest and dividend statements from banks (form 1099)

All Forms 1095, Health Insurance Statements (forms 1095A, 1095B, 1095C)

Copy of previous year tax return

Proof of bank account routing and account numbers for direct deposit such as blank check

If Married Filing Jointly, both spouses need to be present

Total paid to Daycare Provider with Tax ID number

If itemize on Schedule A, statements of expense from Charities, Mortgage Lenders, Property Tax, Medical expenses.

VITA Locations and Information

Tahlequah: O-Si-Yo Room, 17695 S. Muskogee Ave., 918-453-5536
Open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday by appointment and walk-in

Pryor: Career Services, 2945 Hwy 69A, 918-453-5000, ext. 5972
Open from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Thursday

Westville: Westville Public Library, 116 N. Williams
Open for walk-in only from 9 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Feb. 22 and March 8 and 29

Stilwell: Wilma Mankiller Clinic, Hwy 51 East, 918-453-5536
Open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday

Sallisaw: Housing Authority, 2260 W. Cherokee, 918-774-0770, ext. 221 and 222
Open from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday

Catoosa: Housing Authority, 310 Chief Stand Watie, 918-342-2607
Open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesday

Claremore: Housing Authority, 23205 S. Highway 66, 918-342-6807
Open from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Monday and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday

Jay: Housing Authority, 1300 W. Cherokee, 918-253-4078
Open from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday

Salina: CN Food Distribution Site, 904 Owen Walters Blvd., 918-207-3939
Open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday

Muskogee: Three Rivers Health Clinic, 1001 S. 41 St. E., 918-453-5536
Open from 9:15 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesday

Vinita: Vinita Health Center, 27371 S. 4410 Road, 918-342-2607
Open from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Feb. 8, March 1, 15 and 29

Ochelata: Cooweescoowee Health Clinic, 39500 W. 2900 Road, 918-342-2607
Open from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Feb. 15, March 8 and April 5

Nowata: Will Rogers Health Clinic, 1020 Lenape Drive, 918-342-2607
Open from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Feb. 22, March 22 and April 12

Earned Income Tax Credit and Adjusted Gross Income Limits
The tax year 2017 earned income and adjusted gross income must be less than:

If filing…
Qualifying Children Claimed 0, 1, 2, 3 or more


Single, Head of $15,010, $39,617, $45,007, $48,340
Household or
Widowed

Married
Filing Jointly $20,600, $45,207, $50,597, $53,930

Maximum
Credits $510, $3,400, $5,616, $6,318

History of Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program

More than 30 years ago, the Cherokee Nation’s Career Services Learning Center helped CN citizens by preparing simple tax returns. The program has been moved through several departments and is now administered by the Commerce Department’s Mortgage Assistance Program.

The program was originally founded 1971 by Gary Iskowitz at California State University Northridge. The concept was to provide local taxpayers with free tax return preparation by accounting students, in effort to provide both a valuable community service and a powerful hands-on learning experience for the accounting students. The program grew from a small group of dedicated accounting students to what is now a nationwide program that serves thousands of taxpayers and provides a valuable learning experience for accounting students. Iskowitz (now a prominent CPA, and former IRS agent) recently was commended on the 40th anniversary of the program.
About the Author
Travis Snell has worked for the Cherokee Phoenix since 2000. He began as a staff writer, a position that allowed him to win numerous writing awards from the Native American Journalists Association, including the Richard LaCourse Award for best investigative story in 2003. He was promoted to assistant editor in 2007, ...
TRAVIS-SNELL@cherokee.org • 918-453-5358
Travis Snell has worked for the Cherokee Phoenix since 2000. He began as a staff writer, a position that allowed him to win numerous writing awards from the Native American Journalists Association, including the Richard LaCourse Award for best investigative story in 2003. He was promoted to assistant editor in 2007, ...

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