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February 1, 2011 > Free tax preparation

Free tax preparation

By Arnie Becker

Starting now and continuing through April 18th - the deadline for filing your 2010 federal and state tax returns - the VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program) will do your tax return for free if your income is less than approximately $49,000 and you are not married filing separately.

Sites located throughout Alameda and Santa Clara Counties are open various hours and days.

The Fremont Family Resource Center served more than 1,700 families and individuals during the 2010 tax season, and 4Cs served almost 300 families and individuals. All preparers, coaches, instructors, screeners and greeters are volunteers. They receive no money for the many hours spent training and serving the community. Volunteers are young, old, and middle aged. Some are new immigrants, some are retired, and some volunteer on Saturdays or evenings; they speak many different languages and serve as translators where necessary.

A very important reason for the existence of the VITA program is to ensure that low and moderate-income working families receive all of the credits and deductions they are entitled to, and that it costs them nothing to have their returns prepared by trained, certified tax preparers who are looking out for their best interests. Many families receive a substantial Earned Income Credit that allows them to better their economic condition while also contributing to Social Security and Medicare.

In the Bay Area, VITA is under the umbrella of the United Way of the Bay Area which coordinates all sites. To locate a local VITA site call 1-800-829-1040. You can get specific opening times and phone numbers by going to http://www.irs.gov/individuals/article/0,,id=233742,00.html#Alameda or call "2-1-1" for information and referrals.

Some sites work by appointment only, some take walk-ins, and some do both. You should call the site you are interested in for their specific schedule.

Local area sites include:

The Fremont Family Resource Center
39155 Liberty Street, Fremont

The Community Child Care Coordinating Council of Alameda County (4Cs)
22351 City Center Drive, Suite 150, Hayward

Center For Independent Living (CRIL)
439 A Street, Hayward

The Hayward Senior Center
North Third and Crescent, Hayward

The Kenneth C. Aitken Senior and Community Center
17800 Redwood Road, Castro Valley

Milpitas Library
40 N. Milpitas Blvd., Milpitas
(408) 262-1171

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