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It’s Tax Time- How to Get Volunteer Tax Help

Volunteer Tax Help

Yes, it is time to think about filing your 2011 tax returns. It’s a job that is never a joy, but could be less of a hassle, if you try using a terrific free service Рthe Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA). 

 For over 30 years, the VITA force of 2,000+ volunteers has helped more than 2 million households file basic tax forms.  This program offers free tax help to people who cannot afford professional assistance (generally those with incomes under 49,000). Volunteers help prepare basic tax returns in community and neighborhood centers, libraries, schools, and other community locations.

A recent focus of the program is to encourage taxpayers to file their returns, federal and State, electronically. Each year the number of taxpayers that take advantage of this method continues to grow.

 According to the IRS website the following are the items you should bring to have your tax return prepared:

  • Proof of identification
  • Social Security Cards for you,¬†your spouse and dependents and/or a Social Security Number verification letter issued by the Social Security Administration
  • Birth dates for¬†you, your spouse and¬†dependents on the tax return
  • Current year‚Äôs tax package if¬†you received one
  • Wage and earning statement(s) Form W-2, W-2G, 1099-R, from all employers
  • Interest and dividend statements from banks (Forms 1099)
  • A copy of last year‚Äôs Federal and State returns (if available)
  • Bank Routing Numbers and Account Numbers for Direct Deposit
  • Total¬†paid for¬†day¬†care provider and the day care¬†provider’s¬†tax identifying number¬†(the provider’s Social Security Number or the provider’s business Employer Identification Number)

To file taxes electronically on a married filing joint tax return, both spouses must be present to sign the required forms.

To locate the nearest VITA site, call 1-800-829-1040 or contact your local Office on Aging, you can find the # for your County office by visiting www.njfoundationforaging.org/services.html or call 1-877-222-3737.

Identity Theft- Next steps

Identity Theft

 We all know by now that we are supposed to carefully guard our social security number. You may have read some safety tips here on this blog or in Renaissance magazine. So, what do you do if your Social Security number is misused?

 The Social Security Administration protects your Social Security number and keeps your records confidential. They do not give your number to anyone, except when authorized by law. However, in the event that your identity is stolen or your Social Security number misused, they are not able to investigate that matter. Instead, the SSA recommends the following:

To report identity theft, fraud, or misuse of your Social Security number, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, recommends that you take the following steps:

Step 1:  Place a fraud alert on your credit file by contacting one of the three companies:

The company you contact is required to contact the other two, which will then place an alert on their versions of your report.

Step 2:  Review your credit report for inquiries from companies you have not contacted; accounts you did not open; and debts on your accounts that you cannot explain.

Step 3:  Close any accounts you know, or believe, have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.

Step 4:  File a report with your local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place.

Step 5:  File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission online or by calling them at 1-877-438-4338 (TTY 1-866-653-4261).

You also should monitor your credit report periodically. Free credit reports are available online at www.annualcreditreport.com.

 You also may want to contact the Internal Revenue Service. An identity thief might also use your Social Security number to file a tax return in order to receive a refund. If the thief files the tax return before you do, the IRS will believe you already filed and received your refund if eligible. If your Social Security number is stolen, another individual may use it to get a job. That person’s employer would report income earned to the IRS using your Social Security number, making it appear that you did not report all of your income on your tax return. If you think you may have tax issues because someone has stolen your identity, contact the IRS Identity Protection Unit at http://www.irs.gov/privacy/article/0,,id=186436,00.html or call 1-800-908-4490.

NJFA 14th Annual Conference!

NJFA 14th Annual Conference!

 NJFA will hold its 14th Annual Conference on Thursday, June 14th at the Crowne Plaza Monroe. This year’s conference, titled, Addressing the Needs of Diverse Populations will feature two nationally recognized keynote speakers.

 The morning keynote presentation will be given by Linda Couch, Senior Vice President for Policy and Research at the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Linda oversees NLIHC’s policy and research teams and focuses her work focuses on public and assisted housing, budget and appropriations, the National Housing Trust Fund, and other issues. Ms. Couch will discuss advocacy opportunities and strategies for affordable housing. Her discussion will encourage action on particular issues while educating attendees about issues within the affordable housing network.

The luncheon keynote address will be given by nationally recognized writer, Suzanne Braun Levine. Ms. Braun Levine was the first editor of Ms. Magazine and is the author of a number of books on women, family issues and media. Her new book HOW WE LOVE NOW: Sex and the New Intimacy in Second Adulthood is the “third chapter” in her ongoing conversation with women in second adulthood, the stage she celebrated in two popular books: 50 Is the New Fifty: 10 Life Lessons for Women in Second Adulthood and Inventing the Rest of Our Lives: Women in Second Adulthood. NJFA is pleased to have Ms. Braun Levine speak to the audience at our 14th Annual Conference.

We hope to see you all there! For more information about the conference visit:

 www.njfoundationforaging.org or call us at 609-421-0206.

NJ-EESI Update

In 2009, NJFA released a report called, the Elder Economic Security Index (EESI). The Index tells us the cost of living for seniors in all 21 counties in NJ. The Elder Economic Security Standard‚Ñ¢ Index (Elder Index) methodology was developed by the Gerontology Institute at the University of Massachusetts Boston, in partnership with Wider Opportunities for Women(WOW), an advocacy agency in Washington, DC. The Elder Index measures the income required for seniors to meet basic needs without public, private or informal assistance. Measurements are based on existing, credible data from publicly available sources.

 And now, in 2012, WOW has launched a National Database online so that you can see not only the individual state’s numbers, but can compare States and Counties. The database uses the Basic Economic Security Tables™ (BEST) Index and the Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index (Elder Index) to measure the incomes workers and retired elders need to achieve economic security. The BEST and Elder Index present local expenses, savings requirements and economic security incomes by family type, and at the city, county and state levels.

 Not only are the 17 states that have released Elder Index reports available in this new Database, but all 50 states! There are many uses for this data and certainly financial planning or retirement planning has always been one of them, now people preparing to retire can compare costs across the country. It is also a great source for researchers or service providers, looking for data to support projects or compare their state to others.

WOW’s Economic Security Database¬†provides local information on how much families and elders need to make ends meet in one easy-to-use online tool. To view the National Database visit: http://www.basiceconomicsecurity.org/

 To learn more about the NJ Elder Index visit: www.njfoundationforaging.org/issues.html

We are pleased to announce support from the Silver Century Foundation to delve even deeper into the NJ EESI. With this support, we anticipate releasing a detailed profile of seniors living on the edge of poverty in NJ. This information should be released in June 2012. Stay tuned for more information about NJ EESI in the near future.