Gearing up for tax season

By Carl Lewis, Tax Program Coordinator

carl lewis

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ach tax season brings a great opportunity to assist more people in the community. As the new Tax Program Coordinator at Goodwill, I am excited to be a part of this positive impact.

I have several years of volunteer experience with Goodwill’s free tax preparation program, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA). It has always been a pleasure to work with people and assist them. In my former position as a financial coach, I found that tax time is the perfect opportunity to help people get back on track with their finances. The lump sum of money a person receives from a return, allows me a chance to identify an individual’s financial goals and help to achieve them.

I have a strong appreciation for the education the free tax preparation program provides, and it has been a pleasure to train and work with others. It is satisfying to share my knowledge and know that I am helping others learn a valuable life-long skill. All of our volunteers providing tax assistance are certified by the IRS.

With constant changes occurring on a state and national level, people requesting assistance have access to capable volunteers who can provide the answers. Changes with the healthcare system and the Affordable Care Act have caused great concern. We like to utilize the tax program as a platform to help clarify the impact of insurance on tax returns as well as provide information on resources. Filers also often have questions about the numerous forms, the legal requirements of filing, exemptions they are eligible for, and more. We can help!

There has always been a passion for volunteerism and community in my life. I am excited for this new endeavor as a leader with this program. I am looking forward to a robust tax season and helping individuals and families receive the funds they are entitled to.

If you are interested in getting help with your taxes, learning about our service offerings and eligibility requirements, or want to find out where and when services are offered, please visit our all-in-one website: www.vitawestmichigan.org or call 2-1-1 to schedule an appointment.

If you earned less than $62,000 last year, and would like to file on your own, visit www.myfreetaxes.com and file for free using easy, safe, and secure software provided by H&R Block.

Don’t make resolutions

By Jane Drake, MoneyWorks Manager

With the start of the new year, it is inevitable you will read and hear lots of advice and tips on making resolutions. Try this tip: don’t.

According to the Journal of Clinical Psychology only 8% of people are successful in achieving their resolutions. Instead of making resolutions, try a different tactic that will be more likely to help you be happier and more successful. Try what we tell our MoneyWorks clients: change your thinking.

Don’t think you have to be on a diet to lose weight. You know you tried diets before, and they failed. You don’t like having to deny yourself foods you enjoy. Instead, go on an eating plan. It is not about denying yourself all the sweet and gooey, or crisp and salty calorie-laden foods you love. Think of it as having all the delicious and wonderfully healthy foods you want!

In the same way, we advise many of our clients who are working on achieving financial goals, they should not think they have to be on a budget. Many of our clients tell us that they tried keeping a budget but just couldn’t do it. Just as with a diet, they didn’t like that they had to deny themselves something in order to stick with it.

Change your thinking. Instead, of a budget, adopt a spending plan. It is not about denying yourself that new article of clothing, the shiny new toy, or the latest phone upgrade. It is not about not buying what you want with the money you worked so hard to earn. Think of it as taking control of your money so it will no longer be a source of stress to you. Think of it as a wonderful tool to open new possibilities, help you reach your short and long-term goals, and create greater security for you and your family. We can show you how!

We also tell our MoneyWorks clients that nothing happens if you don’t first dream it and then commit to it on paper. Studies show that goals are more likely to be achieved if they are written down. So don’t make a resolution this year. Try a new approach: change your thinking, dream big, and be sure to write it down.

If you would like assistance with spending plans, debt deduction, or saving goals … with free, one-on-one assistance, please contact MoneyWorks directly at financialaction@goodwillwm.org.