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Free Tax Prep Helps You Keep More of Your Pay

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Posted: Friday, February 2, 2018 1:15 am

OP-ED by Congressman Carlos Curbelo

Last year Congress passed historic tax reform, repairing our nation’s broken tax code and restoring confidence in the American economy. The positive effects of this new law are beginning to be felt across the country as businesses of all sizes reward their workers with bonuses and higher wages, all while hiring more people to fill new positions. Millions of Americans across the income spectrum will start seeing more money in their pay checks as soon as this month. However, with the economy roaring along and the growth of wages being realized, nefarious individuals looking to commit fraud and take advantage of countless hard-working Americans as they file their taxes will see this as prime opportunity to ply unsuspecting victims. Fraudulent tax preparation is problem we know all too well in South Florida.

Fortunately, free tax filing assistance is available. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) offers the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, known as VITA, which provides free tax preparation services from volunteer tax professionals in communities across the country.

Together with Representative Danny Davis (D-IL), we introduced a bipartisan bill called the “Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Permanence Act of 2017,” which would authorize the IRS to permanently fund the VITA program and its free tax preparation services. These services provide our most vulnerable — low-income families with an annual income of less than $54,000 fighting to get ahead, the elderly, and those struggling with English — an opportunity to make the most of the recent tax relief legislation and ensure they are getting as much in their tax return as possible.

It also ensures that VITA grant recipients, who already have accuracy rates of 94%, including tax returns claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit, maintain strong records of accuracy that will save taxpayers money. This legislation is an important step forward in ensuring the IRS is serving tax payers, not the other way around, and I’m proud it has strong bipartisan support.

Sixty-percent percent of residents in our district qualify for this assistance in preparing their taxes, which is why I’ve made fighting to protect and strengthen the VITA program one of my top priorities since being appointed to the Ways and Means Committee last year. Right here in South Dade, United Way Miami-Dade works to connect lower-income taxpayers or those with limited English with reliable, legitimate tax preparation assistance — entirely for free through the IRS VITA program. I was honored to invite United Way Miami-Dade to Washington last year to share with my colleagues the work they do to help so many in our community fully-utilize this free resource.

I want to ensure as many constituents as possible are aware these services are available to protect their hard-earned paychecks, especially in a period of historic tax relief. It is also my hope to make this program permanent so hard-working South Floridians can continue to count on VITA for years to come.

I look forward to visiting United Way Miami here in South Dade over the coming weeks to bring attention to their work with the VITA program, and encourage anyone looking for more information to reach out to my office for assistance at 305-222-0160.

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