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01.18.12 Howard County Opens VITA Site to Provide Free Income Tax Preparation

January 18, 2012

Media Contacts:
Kevin Enright, Director, Office of Public Information, 410-313-2022
Rebecca Bowman, Administrator, Office of Consumer Affairs, 410-313-6420

Howard County Opens VITA Site to Provide Free Income Tax Preparation

ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County Executive Ken Ulman announced that the County’s first Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site will open today, January 18 and run throughout the 2012 tax season.

The Howard County site will offer free tax assistance preparation and free electronic filing to most taxpayers who earned up to $49,000 in 2011. Individuals who choose to take advantage of the e-file program will receive their refunds in half-the-time compared to returns filed on paper — even faster, when tax refunds are deposited directly into a bank account.

“Through the opening of this pilot site, we take another step forward to making and keeping all Howard County residents self sufficient,” said County Executive Ulman. “Working families who might otherwise pay hundreds of dollars for tax preparation and electronic filing can now use those funds to pay bills, weatherize their homes or save for their futures.”

The Howard County VITA site will operate out of the North Laurel Community Center, 9411 Whiskey Bottom Road in Laurel, three days a week from January 18 through April 14: Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4 to 8 p.m. and Saturdays 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Taxpayers must bring with them all information and documents necessary to prepare their taxes. A list of the information required can be obtained by calling the site at 410-313-0386 or by accessing its website at www.howardcountymd.gov/VITA.htm. Appointments for tax preparation are encouraged and can be scheduled by calling the site. This year’s tax deadline is April 17.

In addition to free tax preparation and filing, VITA participants will have access to two asset development programs. PNC Bank will provide participants with free refund check cashing or the ability to directly deposit their refunds on free debit cards. MD CASH (Creating Assets, Savings and Hope), a state-wide non-profit organization, will offer incentives to taxpayers who opt to use part of their refunds to purchase savings bonds. “These programs will not only allow VITA participants to access their refunds more quickly and easily but will also provide a safe and secure option for participants to save some of their refund for future needs,” said Rebecca Bowman, Administrator of the Howard County Office of Consumer Affairs which is sponsoring the VITA site.

Financial education classes (provided by a number of financial institutions, government and non-profit organizations through the MD CASH Academy) have also been scheduled to coincide with the hours that the site is open each week. These classes are not limited to VITA participants but are open to the public. For details on these classes and more information about the VITA site, visit www.howardcountymd.gov/VITA.htm.

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