The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program gears up on Saturday, March 19, to help county taxpayers making less than $54,000 per household prepare their taxes. A new California Earned Income Tax Credit is also available to those making less than $6,580 per year — and have no dependents — or for those making $13,870 with two or more dependents. Tax refunds between $900 to $2,653 could be available to low-income families.
The English/Spanish tax prep day requires an appointment at (805) 229-1762; tell them Santa Barbara is the location. The free service is sponsored by Assemblymember Das Williams, State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, and State Controller Betty Yee, with IRS-certified volunteers conducting the tax preparation. Other sites can be found by visiting irs.treasury.gov/freetaxprep.
A far different side of taxation is the fear many have of the Internal Revenue Service. Taking advantage of this is a new scam in which phone callers pretend they have your tax return and just need to verify “a few details,” stated an IRS consumer alert. In this new wrinkle in the old “This is a call from the Internal Revenue Service” con game, callers attempt to get social security numbers, credit cards, or banking information over the phone, and sometimes via email. The IRS states scammers have collected more than $26 million from over 5,000 victims since 2013.
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen emphasized, “Don’t be fooled. The IRS won’t be calling you out of the blue asking you to verify your personal tax information or aggressively threatening you to make an immediate payment.”
The tactics range from polite requests for personal and financial information, to bullying threats of arrest, deportation, or losing a license. Scammers use IRS titles, fake caller ID, and sometimes already know personal information like your name and address.
The IRS recommends hanging up if you get such a call. To report IRS impersonation schemes, call the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at (800) 366-4484, or visit their webpage here.