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Oceanside residents get tax filing assistance

OCEANSIDE — The California Free Tax Assistance Event stopped in at the Civic Center Library to help people file their online taxes on Feb. 28. Oceanside is one of about a dozen statewide stops the event makes each February to provide free tax assistance for middle to low-income individuals and families.

Cities are selected that have a large population earning below $31,000 then event staff coordinates use of a site where services can be delivered. College campuses, community centers and libraries are often used that have necessary computers and Internet access to complete taxes through the Intuit Turbo Tax Freedom Edition.

Computer literate participants with simple tax applications can go through the online tax program independently, and check in with an on site volunteer before they hit the send button to make sure they did not overlook anything.

Those who need assistance or language translation can sit down with a volunteer and translator who will help them through the 45-minute online process. Volunteers are Intuit staff who helped create the tax program.

Volunteers said they learn a lot about the program’s functionality by assisting people. It helps them see how user friendly the free tax filing program is, and provides insight into how the program can be improved to serve a wider range of people.

They also said participants reported they use to bring a shoebox of receipts to a tax preparer, and now feel more in control of their income taxes and empowered after completing the online tax program.

Volunteer Payne Lichtenberg said about 40 percent of Oceanside participants were fairly new at using a computer and needed a hand. Others were unfamiliar with completing a tax form and had some questions.

A new tax question this year asks if tax filers have medical insurance. There is a penalty for not having insurance, and an opportunity to sign up for health coverage online through Covered California.

In addition to tax services a community resource fair was held that offered health, education and employment services.

Tere Veloz, spokesperson for the event host Computer and Communications Industry Association, said about 100 people are assisted annually at the Oceanside event.

Turbo Tax Freedom Edition is available online. Individuals must meet income guidelines of a maximum 2014 adjusted gross income of $31,000 or $60,000 for active duty military to use the free online tax program.

This story has been corrected since its original posting.

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