Martha called the Pickaway County Community Action Organization (PICCA) for an appointment with their tax clinic with an unusual story. It was November and she had not yet filed her previous year’s tax forms. She believed she owed taxes and had requested an extension before the April 15 deadline. Being elderly and, in her own words, “slightly forgetful,” she forgot to file her taxes within the time allotted for an extension. Having recently moved to Pickaway County, Martha was having trouble keeping up with her rent and utilities. When she realized in November she hadn’t filed her taxes, she feared she would lose her house because of the money she owed and called PICCA for help.

PICCA’s free tax clinic is a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program certified by the IRS.  The purpose of the clinic is to help working families save money by providing free income tax preparation and access to tax credits. PICCA’s tax clinic reaches out to low-wage workers to help them claim and keep all their tax refund, particularly the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which can significantly increase the amount of their refund and provide valuable resources to low-income people.

After some questions to determine that she was indeed eligible for PICCA’s services, an appointment was scheduled for Martha to come in to speak to an IRS-trained volunteer who could better determine her next steps. Martha was sure she was in trouble, and probably owed more money due to fines and interest because she had failed to file by the deadline.

Martha met with a tax counselor and after entering her information into the computer system it was discovered that she did not in fact owe anything! She had incorrectly estimated her taxes on paper believing that she owed federal taxes on Social Security income. She did not. When the PICCA tax counselor told her that she did not owe anything, and actually would be receiving about $1,400 from a federal refund, state refund, and stimulus payment, Martha was so taken aback and grateful that she burst into tears. She couldn’t believe how her fate had changed! She stated that she would use her refund to keep her home.

Because of PICCA’s services, Martha correctly submitted her taxes, claimed her entire refund and maintained housing.

For more information about Community Action programs in your area, visit www.oacaa.org. Note, not all Community Action Agencies offer these programs.

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