MIDDLETOWN — The Middletown Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program officially kicked off last month with a welcoming press conference featuring Mayor Ben Florsheim and representatives from The Connecticut Association for Human Services and Middlesex United Way.
The event stressed the importance of accessing tax credits, such as the earned income tax credit, as the 2020 tax season kicks off.
While many of us start to look forward to our incoming tax return, many low-income families don’t file, thinking it’s not necessary but they may be missing out on potentially hundreds of dollars. This year, don’t let the stress or hassle discourage you from filing. If your household income is under $56,000, you can get free tax help at a Middletown Volunteer Income Tax Assistance site.
Last year, the two VITA sites in Middletown helped 657 Middlesex County residents file their taxes. Middletown VITA sites returned $967,300 in refunds to local families — money that not only helps families, but also boosts our local economy. Of those served, there were an additional 100 dependents, mostly children, impacted by the VITA program.
It is an official IRS program, and all tax preparers are certified, and trained to ensure you receive all refunds and credits that you have earned, such as the federal and state earned income, and child and dependent care tax credits. Your return will be filed electronically, and if you have a bank account, you can choose a direct deposit to have your refund returned to you in about seven to 21 days.
VITA can get quite busy annually with requests, so appointments are required. To make an appointment, dial 211 or visit 211ct.org, a free information and referral hotline open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
We have two sites in downtown Middletown, and they are coordinated by the Middlesex VITA Coalition, a partnership of Middlesex United Way and the North End Action Team. The Middlesex VITA Coalition receives support from the Connecticut Association of Human Services.
Appointments will be scheduled from now through April 15 Wednesday and Saturday evenings. Please be sure to bring all of your important documents with you. If you’re filing married filing jointly, both spouses must be present, have a valid picture ID for both, social security cards or individual taxpayer identification numbers for you, your spouse, and any dependents living with you born before Jan. 1, 2020, and birth dates for you, your spouse and dependents.
Important tax documents you must bring include your copy of last year’s federal and state income tax returns, income statements from employers, unemployment, social security or pensions (including forms W-2, 1099-Misc, and 1099-R), and interest and dividends statements from banks or other financial institutions (Forms 1099-INT or 1099-DIV).
Also bring educational expense documentation and student loan payment statements, child care expenses, including the total paid for each child; a daycare provider’s address and tax identification number, property taxes paid, including automobile. Also, if you have Market Place (Obamacare) insurance, bring form 1095-A.
Individuals who file their taxes through VITA will also have the opportunity to learn about two very important topics — the 2020 Census and the ALICE Saves Program.
Unfortunately, Middletown in the past has been designated as a hard-to-count city. This means that, in comparison to other municipalities, the self-response rate has been relatively low, and households have not submitted their census questionnaire.
Middlesex United Way will be partnering with Mayor Ben Florsheim, Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, relevant stakeholders, and local and state agencies to ensure that Middletown has a complete count by joining the first Middletown Complete Count Committee.
The goal of the U.S. Census is to count people only onece, and in the right place according to where they live on census day. This is why the surveyor will ask whether a person lives in the home or primarily stays elsewhere.
The 2020 census is an opportunity to create a better future for our community and the next generation by providing an up-to-date count of our population. It is important to note that all individuals should be counted — regardless of their age, sex, race or background.
In the 2010 census, five percent of kids under 5 weren’t counted; that’s about 1 million young children. The census counts all people living or staying at an address, not just the person or family who owns or rents the property.
ALICE Saves is a program, hosted by Saverlife, designed to encourage the Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed population to begin a new habit of saving by enrolling in two free, award-winning programs. By signing up, participants received savings advice, as well as financial rewards for consistent saving.
Savers earn $10 for every month that they save at least $20 and have the potential to earn up to $60 in rewards at the end of the six-month program.
This goal of this program is to have these participants jump start a habit of saving. While 37 percent of state residents did not set aside any money for emergencies last year, research shows that families with a savings of just $250 are less likely to be evicted or miss a housing or utility payment.
Our vision at Middlesex United Way is for all those who reside in Middlesex County are aware of and able to access supports related to education, health, housing and financial stability. That’s why we’re involved in these programs to help families improve their economic situation.
To learn more about our focus on financial stability, visit middlesexunitedway.org/income.
Kevin Wilhelm is CEO and president of Middlesex United Way of Middletown.