There are 43 days until April 15, when taxes are due. This annual deadline sends many of us into a tizzy — gathering W-2 forms and other income records, figuring deductible expenses and sitting down with our calculator, online tax software or accountant.
Now imagine having to prepare your taxes as a new American, with only basic English-language skills and little or no knowledge of our tax system.
JF&CS’s legal services for immigrants and internationals receive funding from an Internal Revenue Service program to provide Low Income Taxpayer Clinics (LITCs). (Although LITCs receive funding from the IRS, LITCs, their employees and their volunteers are completely independent of the federal government).
LITCs help qualifying individuals understand their taxpayer responsibilities and rights. Through outreach, education and communication, LITC workshops reduce taxpayer uncertainty and error for this special population.
In February, JF&CS held seven free clinics in several languages throughout the city. An additional seven free clinics are scheduled this month (details online). The clinics explain why it is important to file taxes, introduce possible tax credits and include a question-and-answer portion and much more. Some workshops also assist attendees in applying for Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs).
While our clinics do not include actual tax preparation, workshop attendees are referred to free tax preparation resources through the IRS’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, the United Way of Allegheny County’s “Money in Your Pocket” campaign and the University of Pittsburgh.
JF&CS is one of only a handful of organizations in the state to coordinate LITCs. Offering these workshops is a natural fit for our agency, where we already provide resources for legal immigrants.
Our staff includes immigration attorneys, Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) Accredited Representatives and almost 20 volunteer attorneys to help with many cases. Immigration-related legal services and naturalization assistance are offered for free or a nominal fee to individuals with limited financial resources. In some cases, referrals are made to other resources, such as the new Immigration Law Clinic at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, one of our partners.
Since our founding, JF&CS has been an acknowledged leader in helping immigrants and refugees resettle and successfully build new lives in our community. We’re proud to continue in this tradition serving America’s newest individuals.