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ITHACA, N.Y. – This tax season there is a free alternative to filing at H&R Block or Jackson Hewitt. Low-income residents here, both members and non-members alike, can now turn to Alternatives Federal Credit Union for help filing their taxes. The $41 million credit union has recently become a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance site that offers electronic tax filing services to any household earning less than $50,000 in total income. The Internal Revenue Service estimates that $1.4 million in Earned Income Tax Credit is unclaimed by low-income people here. According to AFCU President/CEO Bill Myers, the credit union had been considering offering the program for years but it was only possible to participate this year after moving into a new larger facility that could accommodate the program. VITA is sponsored by Alternatives Community Ventures, Tompkins County Livable Wage Coalition and Ithaca College. In addition, the IRS donated a computer and software to the credit union. Eight main volunteers and a rotating team of about two dozen volunteers help keep the program running smoothly from noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. Saturdays through April 15. So far in just a few weeks approximately 300 people have been helped.

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