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How to get free tax preparation

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(3 ON YOUR SIDE) -

It's not something most people look forward to but like it or not, it's time to file your taxes, but there's a little good news. According to the IRS, more than 70 percent of those who file are expected to get refunds.

A year ago, the average refund was right around $2,800, but filing your taxes and getting that refund can sometimes get pricey.

"I would say between $200 to $300,"Tamyra Spendley with the City of Phoenix said.

Again, there is good news -- a way for some people to get their taxes done free of charge.

"This is our 13th year and what we do is we recruit volunteers to prepare taxes for low- to moderate-income families who make under $54,000 a year." Spendley said.

She's talking about a program called the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, also known as VITA. The good news is you don't have to live in Phoenix. As long as your household income is less than $54,000, you should qualify for free tax preparation.

"We have five new sites this year," Spendley said.

In past tax seasons, 3 On Your Side introduced you to families taking advantage of the free program and according to Spendley, the results were impressive.

"Last year alone, just in the city of Phoenix, we prepared over 4,000 -- about 4,400 -- tax returns and gave back $7.4 million to the residents, just in federal returns," she said.

The hope is that the program will be even more successful this year.

Starting Jan. 25, 16 different VITA sites will be up and running in Phoenix, and then will expand statewide.

Make sure you bring all of your financial papers with you so that the preparers can identify all the tax credits and deductions available to you.

After all, why give money away to the federal government when it should be in your pocket?

"I’m hoping that I can get all I can back because it will help with school and paying back loans and stuff," one Phoenix taxpayer said.

"If you have last year's tax return, that would be very helpful," Spendley said. "But obviously you're going to need an ID, Social Security card, any type of deductions you have. So, if you have a mortgage, if you had any interest ... bring all that, any student loans you may have."

Again the program kicks off in Phoenix and will expand statewide.

More information

http://irs.treasury.gov/freetaxprep/

http://www.211arizona.org/givehelp/eitc.html

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