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Nonprofit Offers Free Tax Assistance

By Amy Smith, Fri., Jan. 22, 2010

Nonprofit Offers Free Tax Assistance

Austin-based Foundation Communities spends most of the year creating affordable housing communities for low-income residents. But for a few months of each year, the nonprofit shifts deep into tax mode, providing free income-tax preparation for low- to moderate-income families drawing $50,000 a year or less annual income and individuals making $25,000 or less.

The group kicked off its tax season Wednesday morning with the grand opening of its new Community Financial Center – a former massage school-turned-tax center with Foundation Communities' acquisition and renovation – at 2600 W. Stassney, near West Gate Boulevard. The new office will serve as the flagship of Foundation Communities' eight tax centers in the Austin area and will also provide financial coaching and information about a "cash for college" program for eligible applicants.

A growing demand for assistance from people who can't afford an accountant led to the creation of the services, said Walter Moreau, executive director of the nonprofit. "This year we expect to do about 20,000 tax returns and over $25 million in refunds," he said. The nonprofit is trying to spread the word about changes in the tax code that could benefit many working families – such as unemployment benefits (the first $2,400 is tax-free), deductions for some new vehicle purchases, credits for education expenses, and credits on energy-saving home improvements. About 500 trained, IRS-certified volunteers provide the tax-prep service; Moreau said their professional backgrounds run the gamut from accounting to banking to real estate. Some 150 of them are University of Texas business school students with intensive training.

In addition to the Stassney Lane site, area residents can receive free tax assistance at the following locations: South Rural Community Center, 3518 FM 973 S., Del Valle; Goodwill Community Center, 1015 Norwood Park; Workforce Solutions, 6505 Airport; Dolores Catholic Church, 1111 Montopolis; East Austin Neighborhood Center, 211 Comal; Bastrop Public Library, 1100 Church St., Bastrop; and Allen R. Baca Center, 301 Bagdad Ave., Bldg. 2, Round Rock. For hours, bus lines to the centers, and other info, see www.foundcom.org or call 211 or 447-2026.

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