Free tax preparation help is available in Niagara Falls and Lockport for qualifying participants.
The Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS) and Niagara County Financial Literacy Coalition (NCFLC) offer those with an annual household income of $54,000 or less free help filing federal and state income tax forms. Appointments are available from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays at Christ Community Church, 140 Genesee St., Lockport and from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays at Family and Children Services Center, 1522 Main St., Niagara Falls. Make an appointment through April 11 by calling 712-2060.
In addition, as another option to file 2017 taxes, individuals who earned less than $64,000 can go to the following link: www.unitedway.org/myfreetaxes to electronically file both their federal and state taxes on their own, for free. Online help is also available, at specific times, by checking the website. “Myfreetaxes” is a Facilitated Self Assistance filing service sponsored by the IRS.
CCCS is a nonprofit, full-service credit counseling agency, providing confidential financial guidance, financial education, counseling and credit repayment assistance to consumers since 1965. In 2013, CCCS assembled 30 human service providers from throughout Niagara County to create the coalition to provide free opportunities for financial education and awareness.
The two entities point out that every tax season, some for-profit tax preparation companies take advantage of low-income individuals, charging an average fee of $350. For those individuals who earn minimum wage, that can represent nearly five days of work, and this does not include the cost for the “rapid refund,” which is usually about $200. The CCCS and coalition aim to keep that money in the pockets of low-income Niagara County residents by offering these free tax preparation sessions.
They further point out that for-profit tax companies historically cluster in low-income neighborhoods, noting there are 23 in the city of Niagara Falls and 18 in Lockport. Current statistics show that nearly 70 percent of low-income families use a commercial tax preparer.
For more information on tax preparation, the coalition and CCCS – or to get involved – contact Noelle Carter at 771-3255 or firstname.lastname@example.org.