LA CA$H rolls out free tax prep service

LEWISTON — It’s that time of year again — time to file income tax returns.

Now in its 14th year, the LA CA$H Coalition is reminding residents it is rolling out its free income tax preparation program for 2017, available to people with household incomes of less than $54,000 in 2016.

LA CA$H is part of the statewide CA$H Maine, which has 10 regional coalitions.

The coalition announced its program at Lewiston City Hall on Thursday. Its goal is to enhance individual and family self-sufficiency, also offering finance classes and other services.

The phone line is open to make an appointment for the service, which is conducted by Internal Revenue Service-certified volunteers at the Lewiston Memorial Armory, 65 Central Ave. To make an appointment, call 513-3160. No walk-ins will be allowed.

The coalition also announced its new site coordinator, Sue Martin, and asset coordinator, Linda Cronkite. Martin takes over for KC Geiger, who ran the volunteer operation for a number of years.

Dottie Perham-Whittier, coalition co-chairwoman, said Martin “brings tons of knowledge and expertise” to the group.

Martin said the first few weeks of sessions are already full. Sessions will be held Mondays, 3 to 6 p.m.; Thursdays, 5 to 8 p.m.; Fridays, 1 to 4 p.m.; and Saturdays 9 a.m. to noon.

A “super refund Saturday” event will be held from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18.

Cronkite, the new asset coordinator, said the coalition can also help residents open retirement accounts, or NextGen college savings accounts on-site with their refund. They’ll also be offering classes on budgeting and managing credit or student loans.

Nicole Witherbee, the chief program officer for the John T. Gorman Foundation, which provides funding for the coalition, said the program “epitomizes the work the foundation hopes to do.”

The 2016 tax season facilitated $3.5 million in federal and state refund claims for the Lewiston-Auburn area. Last year, LA CA$H served 1,950 residents.

The tax preparation program also urges residents to take advantage of the Earned Income Tax Credit, which is available to working people who qualify based on income and other criteria.

City Administrator Ed Barrett said Thursday that the first coalition event he attended was in 2010, during the country’s recession.

“Things are better,” he said, about the Lewiston-Auburn area, “But we haven’t seen growth in incomes.”

He said the area has average annual incomes below the state and national averages, and he urged residents to take advantage of the program and the tax credits.

The group also has a partnership with AARP, which is offering free tax preparation at the Hasty Community Center in Auburn. It can be reached at 513-3170.

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