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Tax service available for Latinos at SQACC

By Kevin Milliken for La Prensa

January 7, 2013: If Latino families need to find a nearby place to pursue income tax preparation services, Tessera Associates—based in Temperance MI—is offering to do taxes in the Sofia Quintero Art and Cultural Center (SQACC), Toledo, Ohio.

Margarita Hernández has set up an office at the South Toledo Quintero Center to prepare and file taxes through the April 15, 2013 deadline. The service began this past week and will operate weekdays from 1 to 5 p.m. by appointment and on a drop-in basis. Weekend and additional hours may be added as demand warrants.

Margarita Hernández

Trust and familiarity are recognized as big issues for Latino families when it comes to financial-related companies—even a fee-for-service tax preparation agency.

“I’m familiar with the community. I’ve had a long-term relationship with volunteering for several agencies in the community,” Ms. Hernández explained. “I just really wanted to provide the service to the Hispanic community because I know some of the time they’re not quite sure what businesses to feel comfortable with. If they go to a business they can identify with and that they’re comfortable with, then they’re more open and free to go into that business.”

Ms. Hernández expects to cater especially to the area’s population of undocumented immigrants—which she called an underserved community. Her bilingual skills and cultural competence is hoped to offset an inherent fear of anything related to the federal government—especially the IRS and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“It’s another reason I wanted to do this, because I wanted to assure them that we know they’re contributing to our society,” she said. “We know that there’s a fear out there, but as long as they can feel comfortable coming to us and knowing we’re going to provide the best service possible to them, it’s just rewarding within itself to be able to do something like that.”

Ms. Hernández is urging Latino families to file their federal income taxes as soon as practical, in order to obtain their refund more quickly, especially if they do qualify for the earned income tax credit (EITC). The longer a family waits to file a tax return, the longer it takes to process such a refund—even if they file electronically. Since the Old South End contains two of the most poverty-stricken zip codes in Toledo, many families will rely on that tax refund to make needed big-ticket purchases they normally cannot afford.

“Certainly they want to be able to get their refund and get the maximum that they can get,” she said. “If it’s crunch time, there’s going to be a longer time sitting down waiting for the process to get done, so the earlier, the better.”

It is especially important for families with a high school senior who may want to attend college to file their tax returns as soon as possible. Even with electronic filing, there is a two-to-three-week turnaround period before their tax information filters into the FAFSA online database for purposes of filing for financial aid. The deadline for most colleges and universities to file a FAFSA falls in February. Many parents of first-generation college students are unaware of such deadlines.

“We do encourage those families to file as soon as they can, just from the mere fact that they need to get that taken care of,” said Ms. Hernández. “They want to be sure to catch that deadline, so they want to be sure and look at FAFSA and make sure they get that deadline met.”

Many immigrant families may only speak Spanish, so Ms. Hernández believes her bilingual skills may put many of them at ease as well.

“We’re living in a diverse society now and there are so many different languages that are spoken in our world today,” she said. “It’s imperative people are able to communicate with each other and it’s important they understand what services we’re providing for them, as well as the rules and regulations because they change slightly over the years.”

2012 also represents the final year families can claim the American Opportunity Tax Credit of up to $2,500 of the cost of tuition, fees and course materials paid during the taxable year. This tax credit includes expenses for course-related books, supplies and equipment that are not necessarily paid to an educational institution.

However, families should compare the tax credit to the tuition and fees tax deduction, which allows up to a $4,000 deduction for qualified tuition and fees paid. According to the IRS website, only one of the education-related credits or deductions may be claimed on federal income tax returns for an individual student.

Tessera Associates is a full-service accounting firm with its home office based in Temperance, Michigan, but offices also on Sylvania Avenue in West Toledo. Tessera provides financial and tax services to more than 100 small and medium-sized businesses in the Toledo metro area, including non-profit groups. Tessera is in the process of joining the Northwest Ohio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (NHOCC).

Appointments for the SQACC-based tax filing services can be made by calling 419.407.4142.


Copyright © 1989 to 2013 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 01/08/13 19:25:35 -0800.




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