Tax season can be a daunting time of year for credit union members. Some, who view their annual refund as a much-needed source of extra cash, want to maximize their refund opportunities. Others, who owe taxes, may be wondering how they’ll afford payments. To ensure the process runs smoothly regardless of a member’s situation, many credit unions are stepping up to help.
State Employees’ Credit Union, a $23.7 billion CU based in Raleigh, N.C., for example, has partnered with the North Carolina Department of Revenue and Office of State Personnel to offer members an individual income tax debt payment loan. The loan, which the CU is offering in conjunction with the North Carolina Department of Revenue’s Individual Income Tax Debt Relief Program, gives qualifying members a 5% interest rate plus a waiver of any penalties and fees associated with their tax debt, which can equal up to 35% of their total debt.
“Resolving past due tax liens can have a highly positive impact on the credit standing of a member, often resulting in lower credit costs, lower costs for insurance, housing and medical services, and improved employment opportunities in a difficult economy,” said Spencer Scarboro, senior vice president of loan originations for SECU.
SECU members can apply for the tax debt payment loan at any SECU branch or online. The loan will be available through April 30.
While this is the first year for SECU to offer a tax debt payment loan program, the CU has been helping members file their taxes for the past five years. SECU branches have served as Volunteer Income Tax Assistance sites, and the CU has offered members a low-cost tax preparation service program.
Meanwhile, credit unions such as the Ferndale, Mich.-based, $739.4 million Credit Union One are helping members take advantage of tax credits. For the second year in a row, Credit Union One is offering “Just File It!”–a free, Web-based, state and federal tax preparation program that allows members to file for often overlooked tax credits, such as the credit for child and dependent care expenses, the education credit for those paying post-secondary education and credits for energy-saving improvements made to a main home.
The program, which can be accessed through the credit union’s website, poses questions to members and includes an online chat service. Credit Union One President/CEO Gary Moody said 361 members used Just File It! last year and received a total of $481,809 in federal tax refunds and $92,811 in state tax refunds.
“Providing access to free online tax services that assure lower-income members receive earned income credits and other state and federal tax credits is of tremendous value,” Moody said. “Statistics prove that most filers are not aware of these credits or do not know what to do to get them. This service allows for free e-filing and determines what credits the filer is eligible for, so we save the member time and money, and they become more educated about their finances and taxes.”
The following credit unions also announced they’re providing members and communities with tax help this year.
Like Credit Union One, Public Service Credit Union, a $132.4 million CU based in Romulus, Mich., is offering members online tax preparation help via Just File It! software.
The St. Louis-based Electro Savings Credit Union, which has assets of $139.7 million, is partnering with nonprofit organization Gateway EITC Community Coalition to assist low-income families this tax season. Representatives from Electro Savings CU will be present at the Ferguson Municipal Library in Ferguson, Mo., on Saturdays along with GECC through April 14 to open free checking and savings accounts for tax filers with no minimum balance requirements. New account holders can then receive direct deposits of their tax refunds within seven to 10 days. GECC offers free tax preparation services to families that earn less than $50,000 per year.
The $1 billion Oregon Community Credit Union of Eugene, Ore., is participating in AARP’s Tax-Aide program by donating a meeting room and equipment. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. through April 14, including Saturday, April 14, the credit union’s South Eugene branch will serve as an AARP Tax-Aide site. The Tax-Aide program is intended to assist low-to-moderate income taxpayers with their tax preparation and helped produce more than $6 million in tax relief and refunds for residents of Oregon’s Lane County last year, the CU said.
GFA Federal Credit Union, a $345 million, Gardner, Mass.-based CU, has brought in Ameritax’s Joe Giannotti, enrolled agent, for the 17th year in a row to provide full-service tax preparation services for members at a 10% discount. GFA FCU said members who prefer to file their taxes independently can access TurboTax Online through its website.