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Volunteer programs helps NNY residents file tax returns

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Few last-minute appointments are available for low- and moderate-income families looking to file their tax returns by the April 15 deadline.

A handful of nonprofit and government agencies within Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties have used dozens of volunteers since January to run local Volunteer Income Tax Assistance programs, which are offered free of charge. All volunteers are certified by the Internal Revenue Service so they can file taxes on behalf of clients.

Agencies typically receive calls about the program at the turn of each year, and appointments fill up quickly. Some locations book so quickly, there are few available appointments for stragglers.

As of Friday at Lewis County Opportunities, Lowville, there were only three appointments left to file basic returns in early April. Lewis County residents can call the agency at 376-8208, and press “0” to reach the operator.

Last year, the VITA program there assisted 182 households, with tax refunds totaling $22,695, according to the agency’s website. Earned income credits totaled $70,827, and volunteers collectively logged 157 hours to complete returns.

The Jefferson County Department of Social Services, 250 Arsenal St., offered a walk-in service from Jan. 25 to Thursday, but the agency now offers appointments only, through April 15, by calling 785-3320. To qualify, income must be less than $59,000, and all statements, such as W-2, unemployment forms and 1099, are required. People should bring a picture identification card and bank routing numbers, if filing electronically.

Social Services Commissioner Theresa W. Gaffney said the appointment schedule isn’t full through April 15, and so far 13 staff members have helped file 472 returns, totaling $1,113,101 in refunds.

In St. Lawrence County, the local AARP group offers free income tax preparation and electronic filing. Phillip St. Amand, communications coordinator of the group, said the only site that offers appointments is booked through April, but three other sites take only walk-ins.

“We encourage them to get there early,” he said. “We rarely turn anyone away. We’d love to get more of the young working to come in. We’re here to help people, and do it free of charge. The government says you have to file a tax return; it doesn’t say you have to pay for it.”

The AARP program uses 22 volunteer preparers throughout sites in Massena, Potsdam, Canton and Ogdensburg.

The Community Action Planning Council of Jefferson County typically has just over a dozen volunteers for its program, which is offered in Watertown, Adams, Clayton and Carthage. There are only select appointments available in April.

CAPC Deputy Director Dawn M. Cole said that as of Friday, volunteers had prepared 335 returns since the beginning of the tax season, and those returns yielded $427,742 in refunds.

Meanwhile, the VITA program also serves as a learning opportunity for SUNY Canton accounting students, who are able to “increase their tax preparation skills and teach community members how to correctly file their own personal taxes in the future,” according to a recent college news release.

CAPC tax preparers will be available at the following locations:

n CAPC, 518 Davidson St. Call 782-4900 for appointments between 9 a.m. and 1:45 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays through April 14.

n Roswell P. Flower Memorial Library, 229 Washington St. Call 782-4900 for appointments between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturdays through April 12.

n Paynter Senior Center, 914 Strawberry Lane, Clayton. Call 686-3553 to schedule an appointment Monday or March 10.

n Town/village of Adams offices, 3 S. Main St., Adams. Appointments are available from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays until April 10 by calling 782-4900.

n American Legion, 415 West St., Carthage. Call 493-1545 to set up an appointment between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month, and Wednesdays thereafter through April 9.

Appointments at the following sites are on a first-come, first-served basis for the St. Lawrence County AARP group:

n Massena Community Center, 61 Beach St., from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays until April 15.

n Midtown Apartments, Munson and Waverly streets, Potsdam, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesdays until April 15.

n Canton: From 4 to 8 p.m. Tuesdays at the Knights of Columbus, Miner Street, and from 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesdays at Partridge Knoll, 30 Sullivan Drive (by appointment only). Call 212-0409 to make an appointment at Partridge Knoll.

n Dobisky Community Center, Riverside Avenue, Ogdensburg, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursdays until April 10.

SUNY Canton accounting students will offer the VITA program from 3 to 6 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays until April 1, except during the week of March 10, in Wicks Hall, Room 031. To schedule an appointment, call Brian R. Trill at 379-3916.

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