Even before the pandemic, tax season has always consisted of varying levels of anticipation and stress. And, for many filers, an easy and successful tax return is essential this time of year.
Fortunately, as part of the IRS’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance network (VITA), Ceiba —a coalition of Latinx community-based organizations in Norris Square — is able to provide low-income filers with its free tax preparation services.
As a community-based organization, Executive Director Will González explained that Ceiba’s goal with this resource goes beyond just helping families file their state and federal income taxes this year.
“We are doing taxes as a gateway to asset building,” González said. “We are not just doing taxes to do taxes. Taxes are a window to a household’s finances, and what we’re hoping is that we can see what that household qualifies for and connect them with things that are totally free.”
This year specifically, with the implementation of the advanced Child Tax Credit, which allows families to collect early payments of 50% of the estimated amount of any Child Tax Credit for the 2021 tax year, families may be eligible for more financial relief than they realize.
Ceiba also goes step by step with clients for things like applying for grants for children going to college, or if they are applying for a home or business loan.
Furthermore, Ceiba’s goal is to help families reach their goals this tax season without having to be exploited by those with not-so-good intentions.
“There are some paid preparers who are not too kind and sometimes try to take advantage of our community,” González said. “And so this is another protection against that.”
Who qualifies and what to expect
With Ceiba’s free tax services available to low-income filers, it’s helpful to understand who qualifies. According to González, individuals who make less than $70,000 annually can apply.
Aside from basic forms of identification (photo ID card, Social Security card, ITIN, etc.), individuals will also need to submit proof of income for 2021, such as with a W2 or a 1099-MISC. Other documents Ceiba lists as being necessary or helpful include:
- 1098-T (educational expenses)
- 1099-INT or 1099-DIV (interest or dividends)
- 1099-G (state/local tax refund)
- 1099-G (unemployment compensation)
- 1098 (home mortgage insurance)
- 1098-E (student loan interest)
- 1099-SSA (social security)
- 5498-SA and 1099-SA (health savings account)
- 1099-A or 1099-C (cancellation of debt)
- 1095-B, 1095-C, 1095-A (health insurance)
- Identity Protection Pin (issued by the IRS after an occurrence of identity theft)
- Documentation of expenses if self-employed or cash-income
After applying for tax assistance, Ceiba will begin the process with a telephone appointment to ensure the individual or family has all the necessary forms and documents to file tax returns for 2021.
Due to the safety restrictions caused by the pandemic, Ceiba also offers its services remotely to those with online access.
“We use secure tools for you to upload your tax documents in an encrypted fashion to send to us,” González said.
For non-English or Spanish speakers, Ceiba has access to interpreters in different languages.
To schedule an appointment, visit Ceiba’s website here or call 215-634-7245.
Don’t live in Philadelphia? This free tax assistance resource is available to anyone in the United States, using the VITA Locator Tool, from now to April 18.
Kensington Voice is one of more than 20 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on economic mobility. Read more at brokeinphilly.org or follow on Twitter at @BrokeInPhilly.