United Way of Santa Barbara County has free, bi-lingual tax preparation centers.

United Way of Santa Barbara County has free, bi-lingual tax preparation centers. (Courtesy photo.)

With the clock ticking toward the April 15 tax deadline, United Way of Santa Barbara County (UWSBC) is offering free, bilingual tax preparation centers for families and individuals who earned less than $66,000 in 2018.

UWSBC’s United for Financial Empowerment Partnership has assistance centers during evening, daytime and weekend hours to accommodate as many residents as possible.

Each Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site is staffed by trained, experienced, IRS-certified volunteers who provide free income tax return preparation and E-Filing to help residents receive their tax refunds that help improve financial stability.

“Tax preparation can seem like an intimidating process, but our volunteers can help turn this into a financially empowering learning experience,” said Steve Ortiz, UWSBC president/CEO.

“There’s no need to fear or put off tax preparation,” he said. “The expertise to get it done right and set yourself up for success is right here, free of charge.”

In particular, volunteers are looking to ensure even more working families benefit from California’s recently expanded Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). What is new?

» Higher income limits. A parent with an income of $24,950 or less may benefit from the credit if they have one or more qualifying children. That means a parent working full-time at the state minimum wage of roughly $12 per hour could qualify.

More working Californians will benefit from this credit. Adults ages 18-24 without dependents, and older adults ages 65 plus without dependents will also be eligible for this credit for the first time in tax year 2018.

» Work for yourself? You qualify, too. Even if you earned income from self-employment, you may qualify for the credit. Both 1099 filers and cash earners qualify.

With the combined federal and state credits, eligible families can get up to $6,000 back after filing their taxes. The average combined refund for both credits combined is $3,000.

All you need to do to take advantage of this credit is to file your state and federal tax returns. Search for a free tax preparation site, with IRS-certified tax preparers, or file online at www.unitedwaysb.org/vita.  

In 2018, more than 100 volunteers through UWSBC’s United for Financial Empowerment Partnership prepared some 2,100 returns, securing more than $2.3 million in refunds for participants.

Tax preparation services will be available at the following VITA sites through April 15:

United Way, 320 E. Gutierrez St., Santa Barbara, 1-4 p.m., Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Santa Barbara High School, 700 E. Anapamu St. room 71, 3-6 p.m., Wednesdays (closed March 27).

Goleta Valley Community Center, 5679 Hollister Ave., 9 a.m.-noon, 1-4 p.m. Fridays.

Franklin Neighborhood Center, 1136 Montecito St., Santa Barbara, 6-9 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays.

Police Activities League, 1235 Chapala St., Santa Barbara, 7-9 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays.

Santa Ynez High School, 2975 E. Highway 246 Room E-1, Santa Ynez, 9 a.m.-2p.m. Saturday, March 2, March 9, April 6. Appointments available by calling 805-686-0295.

Carpinteria Children’s Project, 5201 8th St. room 312, Carpinteria, 4-6:15 p.m. Wednesdays beginning Feb. 20.

UCSB at Phelps Hall, rooms 1525 and SSMS 1301, 1:30-4:30 p.m. Fridays Feb. 15-March 8 and at Student Resource Building computer lab, 12:30-3:30 p.m. Feb. 16, 17, 24.

For more information and a comprehensive list of VITA sites and operating hours, visit http://www.unitedwaysb.org/vita.

Angel Pacheco for United Way of Santa Barbara County