Rosewood volunteers make tax season less taxing

Discover the organizations that have come together to help low income residents, and limited English-speakers, prepare their income tax returns this year …

VITA volunteers help people do their tax returns at the Rosewood Community Center.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Saturdays and Sundays through April, the Rosewood Community Center is busy with quiet activity as people get much-needed help filing their tax return. It’s with the help of people from the federal Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA).

Run by the Internal Revenue Service, certified volunteers at this outer East Portland location provide free tax preparation services to low-income residents – as well as limited English speaking taxpayers, in their native languate of Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Arabic, and Hindi.

“This tax site is the partnership between Rosewood Initiative and the Vietnamese Community of Oregon,” explained VITA volunteer Chi McGraw, between seeing clients.

“Our volunteers come from many different ethnic communities,” McGraw told East Portland News. “We serve all low-income people, here in the mid-County area, helping them prepare their tax returns.”

Jake Decero and Carol Decero get help with their tax return from VITA volunteer Chi McGraw.

Trying to figure out the federal and state tax codes is daunting even for native English speakers, McGraw observed. “And many low-income taxpayers, because of their limited English proficiency, don’t know much about the tax code, or may not even know that they should file an income tax return.”

But more than just plugging numbers into a computerized form, VITA volunteers inform clients about potentially-valuable tax credits – including Earned-Income and Child-Tax-Credit programs.

“The ‘Earned-Income’ programs encourage people to work for money,” McGraw explained. “And, the Child-Tax-Credit is for families with children under 17 who go to school. In Oregon, if the family uses child-care services, they may also qualify for Working Family Credit.

“All the credits provided by the federal and state [tax codes] help the taxpayer with extra money to help raise them up and encourage them to continue to work,” McGraw added. “Plus, they can continue to raise their children in a healthful and successful way.”

These volunteers spend their weekends helping folks with something important that most avoid until the last minute, McGraw said; they do it, “Because we love this country. We love our people. We want to support and share by giving public service. We want the citizens to appreciate how wonderful our country is; and how well we care for people.”

People come into the Rosewood VITA Center looking worried, but leave happy, with their tax returns completed.

After McGraw helped them complete their tax return, Jake and Carol Decero were all smiles.

“This service is amazing,” Carol said. “It is such a blessing, because we could not afford to get our taxes done professionally. It is so nice to have the whole process explained to us, so we can come more prepared and know better what we’re doing.

“To start from nothing, and to have people help us complete our return, we are super grateful,” Decero said.

VITA free tax help services continue Saturdays and Sundays. Those wanting assistance are asked to bring last year’s tax returns, photo ID, Social Security cards, and all tax-related documents.

They’re seeing folks from 10:00 a.m. through 5:00 p.m,. through April 12th, at the Rosewood Initiative Community Center, at 16126 SE Stark Street, 97233.

© 2015 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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