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Filing season Free tax return assistance at UTRGV campuses

Rosalva Vela, an accounting junior (right), calls HealthCare.gov for assistance, while Nora Caballero, a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance clerk, assists her with her tax return. ANA CAHUICHE/ THE RIDER

University of Texas Rio Grande Valley students, faculty, staff and the community earning less than $62,000 a year can receive free tax return assistance on both the Edinburg and Brownsville campuses.

“There are legal obligations to filing an income tax return and it’s different for different people,” said Keren Arista, United Way of Southern Cameron County’s financial stability coordinator.

“There is something called a requirement to file that young people need to become familiar with. So, especially if they start working. There’s something called the filing threshold. If you earn over a certain amount, you are required to file a tax return.”

The threshold for filing is –$10,300 as a single person under age 65; –$13,250 as head of household under age 65;
and –$20,600 as married jointly (both spouses) under age 65.

For the complete list, visit www.irs.gov/publications/p554/ch01.html.

This year, individuals who do not have health insurance will be penalized $695 per adult and $347.50 per child under age 18 or 2.5 percent of the household income, whichever is higher.

On March 23, 2010, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act to “make health care more affordable, accessible and of a higher quality, for families, seniors, businesses and taxpayers alike,” according to the HealthCare.gov website.

Those who can afford health insurance but do not buy it must pay a fee called the individual shared responsibility payment.


Shelby Venson-Smith, a press officer for the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, wrote in an email to The Rider that “coverage provided via a student health plan is considered to meet minimum essential coverage for an individual, thus they would not be subject to a penalty.”

Seth Colwell, a lecturer in the Accounting department who teaches the income tax course, ACCT 3323, said the penalty would vary, depending on the individual’s income and filing situation.

Individuals can claim the exemption for unaffordable coverage if the cost is more than 8.05 percent of their household income. Use Form 8965 to report a coverage exemption granted by the Health Insurance Marketplace, also called the “Exchange,” or to claim a coverage exemption on your tax return.

To find out if you qualify, visit www.HealthCare.gov/tax-tool.

As part of United Way, myfreetaxes.com is a free software the campus community can use to prepare their tax returns. Locations near U Central will be available on both campuses. In addition, United Way will teach the campus community how to file an income tax return free of charge as part of its Learn to File event, which will run until March 4.

“It’s very important that students understand that the tax return has to be done early, so that when they go online for the FAFSA application, they can use the IRS Retrieval Tool and that would automatically pull their tax data from the IRS Database,” Arista said.

Arista recommends students file their income tax return five to 10 days before filing for financial aid.

“We really want them to file a tax return as early in February as possible, so that they’ll meet the early filing deadline
for FAFSA in March,” she said.

When visiting the tax assistance site, bring the following:
–valid photo identification;
–original Social Security cards for all household members;
–a copy of last year’s tax return if available;
–Health Insurance Forms 1095 or know your coverage dates for all household members;
–income documents such as Forms W-2, W-2G and 1099 from all employer and other sources (Social Security, unemployment, pension, etc.);
–bank routing numbers and account numbers for direct deposit of refund;
–Form 1098-T for students with post-secondary tuition expenses or grant income; and
–Identity Theft prevention PIN, if assigned by the IRS.

Couples filing as married jointly must be present to sign the required forms.

Tax return assistance is available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The deadline to file is April 18.

For more information on student health plans, visit utrgv.myahpcare.com or UTRGV Student Health Services at 613 N. Sugar Rd. in Edinburg or Cortez Hall 237 in Brownsville.

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