LEWISTON — The new model of the LA CA$H Coalition is working well, according to IRS Senior Tax Consultant Tess Armstrong following her site visit at the Lewiston Armory.
“The results were excellent. Your new mission of comprehensive tax prep and financial check-ups is exactly what IRS SPEC has envisioned as the ideal VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance ) site, and I can’t thank you enough for your efforts to promote financial empowerment opportunities to the taxpayers who are served at your site,” Armstrong told LA CA$H according to a press release.
Free tax preparation by IRS certified volunteer tax preparers and individual financial check-ups were provided to residents who made an appointment for the free service from Jan. 24 through April 11, at the Lewiston Armory. Residents selected either a face-to-face appointment or the Coalition’s new Scan & Go offering, whereby their documents were scanned upon arrival, and the person returned the following week for review, signing and electronic filing.
New at the helm is retired Purdue Global University Assistant Associate Dean Anthony “Tony” Tenneson as site coordinator, who has an extensive professional background in tax preparation. Assisting him was Jillian Shepard, a Human Services student at Purdue, who served as resource coordinator and appointment scheduler.
“We call them the dynamic duo, as the quality of service and the personalized attention they provided to each resident have been exemplary. The financial check-ups have been a hit with residents upon receiving informational resources towards self-sufficiency and having conversations about credit reports, reducing debt, home ownership, etc. One gentleman began to cry during his financial check-up and stated, ‘Thank you for being so kind to me.’ Saving was also part of the conversations, and we’re excited to report that 59 individuals decided to save a portion of their refund this tax season,” noted LA CA$H Co-Chair Dottie Perham-Whittier, in the press release.
Tenneson and Shepard were particularly appreciative of a thank you card from a resident who noted how the tax site experience helped change her life. She shared that her much-needed refund enabled her to become debt free and now she is saving for a car and eventually a home.
Christine Adler, LA CA$H co-chair, echoed Whittier’s thoughts, “L/A CA$H Coalition members, staunch volunteers, and site leadership have demonstrated commitment beyond description. The level of professionalism, camaraderie, and the desire to help fellow community residents was inspiring and self-less. The new model has indeed established a foundation for an even brighter future for L/A CA$H and the people it serves.”
This season, 311 federal returns and 347 state returns were prepared by three IRS-certified volunteer tax preparers: Christine Adler, Monica Lee, and Gary Dennis. Intake representatives who facilitated financial check-ups were: Linette Dehetre, Rick Speer, Chris Davis, Lisa Laliberte, Jill Lorom, Jennifer Allen, and Dottie Perham-Whittier. During the season, Site Coordinator Tenneson also did tax-related community presentations, to include a Lewiston High School financial literacy class.
Federal refunds claimed via LA CA$H free tax prep totaled $469,784, and state refunds claimed totaled $141,608. Within the Federal claims, a total of $164,543 in Earned Income Tax Credits were claimed; the EITC is the federal government’s largest anti-poverty benefit for workers.
In addition to the City of Lewiston, partners of the LA CA$H Coalition include the Internal Revenue Service, city of Auburn, Purdue Global University, Lewiston Housing Authority, Promise Early Education, United Way of Androscoggin County, Coastal Enterprises, and New Ventures Maine. Funding for the work of the LA CA$H Coalition was provided by a portion of a State-wide VITA grant and the John T. Gorman Foundation.