Tax Preparation

Free tax preparation program underway at Beaumont

It’s tax time again, and Lamar University, Entergy Texas, the IRS and Catholic Charities of Southeast Texas have collaborated to offer free income tax preparation to community members who earn less than $57,000 annually, helping area residents minimize payments and maximize refunds.

Jon Korejwa, a certified tax professional and Director of Training and Operations for Lamar University’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, and Entergy Texas welcome Entergy customers and community members to participate in the free program, with qualified families receiving up to $6,700 in Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

“I invite anyone who needs tax help to come talk to one of our volunteers at one of our Beaumont locations,” said Korejwa.

Lamar University began the program in 2008 after receiving a grant from the IRS. Elton Payne, now deceased, initiated the grant process and administered the program until 2014. Korejwa, who now directs training for the program, joined VITA in 2011 after hearing a plea for volunteers on KLVI. After receiving training and becoming a certified tax professional thanks to the program, he was asked by Lamar University to continue it in 2015 following Payne’s death.

Last year, VITA completed 738 tax returns and refunded taxpayers $919,480. The program also captured EITC, child tax credits and education credits, among other credits for taxpayers.

Because the taxpayer pays no preparation fee, Korejwa estimates VITA saved taxpayers even more than that. He said taxpayers who participated in the program likely saved a whopping $1.4 million in total tax prep fees based on the average cost of a professionally prepared tax return, estimated at $200.

According to Entergy Texas, employees of the company have been volunteering for the free tax preparation for 12 years and will continue this year. Entergy Texas is also continuing its partnership with community advocates to support VITA services for qualifying customers. Funding for this effort is provided through shareholder contributions and does not impact customer bills.

Since 2011, Entergy Texas’ support of VITA sites has helped return over $15 million to almost 12,000 residents in Southeast Texas. The federal government estimates EITC has lifted more than 5.6 million people out of poverty, including 3 million children; however, one out of five people who qualify for the EITC fail to claim it.

“The Earned Income Tax Credit is one of our country’s most effective tools for lifting low-income workers and their families above the poverty line,” said Stuart Barrett, vice president of customer service. “Our goal is to increase the amount of federal money returned to our customers by raising awareness of the credit and supporting VITA sites to help qualified customers avoid high fees.”

Free tax preparation services are provided at VITA sites throughout the 2022 tax season. At local VITA sites, IRS-certified volunteers from Entergy Texas and community partners will be available to help residents who earn $57,000 or less determine if they qualify to receive the tax benefits. These trained volunteers assist individuals with tax preparation, offering guidance on topics like earned income credit. VITA also prepares taxes for non-resident alien taxes (1040-NR) for international students at Lamar University. In some VITA locations, local community partners are offering appointments for tax preparation services, drop-off tax prep services, financial coaching, budget workshops, free legal services and more.

VITA volunteers will be available during the indicated hours at the following sites:

Saturdays from 9 am to 2 pm beginning Feb. 5 and ending April 9 at the Gloria Rameriz Neighborhood Resource Center, 2850 Gulf Street (the old fairgrounds) in Beaumont, phone: (409) 347-7891;

Mondays form 5 pm to 8 pm beginning Feb. 7 and ending April 11 at Catholic Charities, 2780 Eastex Freeway in Beaumont, phone: (409) 924-4400;

Every other Saturday beginning Feb. 5 and by appointment at the Jackson Community Center, 520 W. Decatur Ave. in Orange, phone (409) 779-1981;

Saturdays from 9 am to 2 pm beginning Feb. 9 until April 3 at the St. Vincent DePaul Society, 3730 FM 160 North in Raywood, phone (936) 587-4246.

VITA site locations are also available at entergy.com/freetaxhelp. Residents may sign up to have their taxes prepared at
getyourrefund.org/BakerRipley. Information from getyourrefund.org will be used to match a tax filer with a nearby VITA provider.

Related Articles