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As a homeowner and mother of two small children, Angela Cattladge knew she needed a tax preparer to help her figure out what tax deductions she could take.
But with a limited income, she didn't want to spend the fee, often in the hundreds of dollars, to get her taxes professionally done.
Instead, because she met the criteria of the Internal Revenue Service's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, Ms. Cattladge was able to have her taxes done for free by a volunteer preparer at her place of employment, the Toledo Urban Federal Credit Union on Dorr Street.
"For a low-income person to be able to get free tax services, that really helps out a lot," said Ms. Cattladge.
The tax preparer's knowledge helped Ms. Cattladge get the full child care tax credits she was due, take advantage of the earned income tax credit, and figure out how best to account for her charitable donations.
"They really helped me decide what was best for me," said Ms. Cattladge, who said she plans to use her tax refund to clear up some debt and to invest in an individual retirement account.
Her experience is being repeated throughout northwest Ohio this time of year, as thousands of taxpayers take advantage of free tax-preparation services, either through the VITA program or through the American Association of Retired Persons, at sites in area senior centers, libraries, churches, credit unions, and family centers.
The free tax-preparation sites are aimed at low and moderate-income taxpayers, the elderly, and the disabled.
Although the IRS-sponsored sites set an adjusted gross income limit of roughly $36,000, the AARP sites can take applicants with higher incomes if the returns aren't complex.
Tax returns also are prepared for free at the IRS offices in downtown Toledo and Lima for those filers with incomes under $36,000. If the IRS is too busy for the walk-in business, AARP volunteers are also on hand to help with returns.
Volunteers at the credit union and seven other sites that are part of the Toledo non-profit and government group Toledo Economic Coalition are particularly educated on the federal Earned Income Tax Credit, said Richard McCray, VITA coordinator for the sites.
"Many people can be eligible for this credit and not know it, and this credit could increase a refund by hundreds or even thousands of dollars," he said.
This is the third year that Zenola Sherman has volunteered to prepare taxes for e ligible taxpayers, and she said she enjoys it more each year.
"It's hard work, don't get me wrong, but it's an awesome program," she said.
"The reward for me is indescribable."
Because she dropped her tax paperwork off yesterday at the Toledo Urban Federal Credit Union, Garnet Williamson doesn't know how much money she's going to get back.
But the 22-year-old theater major at Owens Community College said she already feels richer because she didn't have to pat have her taxes done.
"It saves me a lot," said the employee of both Giant Eagle and Petco. "I'm paying for school, so if I can get something done for free, it helps a lot."
Bruce Gelsinger is in his third year at the Guyer Federal Building in Lima, where volunteers trained by AARP help a wide variety of clients, including those age 60 and older.
Mr. Gelsinger, who is the coordinator of the staff at the site and said he expects to have 1,000 federal returns filed this year, said the preparers see a variety of returns from senior citizens.
"Some senior citizens will have dividends and capital gains, but others will just have straight pensions and IRAs," said the retired engineer.
The AARP-trained preparers will not handle returns that involve businesses, rental properties, or farms, but he noted most senior citizens don't have those types of concerns.
"A lot of people who come to us had a spouse who used to prepare the taxes and now the survivor does not really feel comfortable doing the taxes," Mr. Gelsinger said.
Contact Mary-Beth McLaughlin at
Generally, these sites help taxpayers of all ages, but some restrictions may apply. Most are by appointment only, others take walk-ins, and days and times are subject to change. It s best to call ahead. This list is provided by the Internal Revenue Service.
Bluffton Senior Citizens Association, 132 North Main, Bluffton; Thursday, 9 a.m.-noon; by appointment, 419-358-8971.
Guyer Federal Building, 401 West North St., suite 240, Lima; Monday-Thursday 9 a.m. -3:30 p.m. and Friday 9 a.m.-noon; by appointment, 419-225-9405.
St. Gerard s Church, 240 West Robb Ave., Lima; Tuesday 5-8 p.m.; walk-in, 419-224-3080.
Allen County Department Jobs and Family Services, 1501 South Dixie, Lima; Monday 3-6 p.m., also March 11 and 18, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; walk-in, 419-228-2621.
Saint Mary s Parish Center, 429 Central Ave., Sandusky; Tuesday 9 a.m.-noon; walk-in, 419-625-7465.
Erie County Senior Center, 630 East Water St., Sandusky; Monday 9 a.m.-3 p.m., Wednesday-Thursday 9-11:30 a.m.; walk-in, 419-626-2560.
Erie Huron Community Action Commission, 908 South Depot, Sandusky; Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-3 p.m.; by appointment, 419-626-6540.
Ritter Public Library, 5680 Liberty Avenue, Vermilion; Friday 10 a.m.-3 p.m.; by appointment, 440-967-3798.
Fulton County Senior Center, 240 Clinton St., Wauseon; Tuesday 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; by appointment, 419-337-9299.
Findlay-Hancock Public Library, 206 Broadway, Findlay; Monday-Thursday 5-7:30 p.m., Saturday, 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m.; walkin, 419-422-1712.
AAA Automobile Club, 1550 Tiffi n Avenue, Findlay; Monday- Friday 12:30-4 p.m.; walk-in, 419-422-4961.
County Agency on Aging, 423 Trenton Ave., Findlay; Tuesday and Thursday 9-11 a.m.; by appointment, 419-423-8496.
Holland Public Library, 1032 South McCord Rd., Holland;
Thursday 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; by appointment, 419-259-5240.
Maumee Senior Center, 2430 Detroit Ave., Maumee; Wednesday 9 a.m.-noon; by appointment, 419-893-1994.
Maumee Public Library, 501 River Rd., Maumee; Tuesday 9:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m.; by appointment, 419-259-5360.
Oregon Library, 3340 Dustin Rd., Oregon; Tuesday 9:15 a.m.- noon; by appointment, 419-259-5250.
Sylvania Senior Center, 7140 West Sylvania Ave., Sylvania; Friday; by appointment, 419-885-3913.
East Toledo Senior Center, 1001 White; Thursday noon-3 p.m.; by appointment, 419-691-2254.
St. James Holiness Church of God in Christ, 3319 Nebraska Ave.; Monday and Wednesday 6-9 p.m.; by appointment, 419-810-2259.
Toledo Urban Federal Credit Union, 1339 Dorr St.; Monday-Thursday 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Friday 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; walk-in and by appointment, 419-255-8876.
Frederick Douglass Community Center, 1001 Indiana Ave.; Monday- Thursday 10 a.m.-3 p.m.; by appointment, 419-244-6722.
Mayores Senior Center, 1 Aurora Gonzales Dr.; Tuesday 9 a.m.-noon; by appointment, 419-242-1144.
Aurora Gonzales Community & Family Resource Center, 1949 Broadway; Monday and Wednesday 5-7 p.m.; by appointment 419-244-0666.
Point Place Library, 2727 117th St.; Monday and some Fridays; by appointment. 419-259-5390.
West Toledo Library, 1320 Sylvania Ave.; Tuesday 9 a.m.-noon; walk-in, 419-259-5290.
Eleanor Kahle Senior Center, 1315 Hillcrest (appointments at Aldersgate Church, 4030 Douglas); Tuesday and Thursday 9-11:30 a.m.; by appointment, 419-476-2745.
Margaret L. Hunt Senior Center, 2121 Garden Lake Pkwy.; Thursday 9 a.m.-noon and Tuesday and Thursday 4-5:30 p.m.; by appointment, 419-385-2595.
Heatherdowns Library, 3265 Glanzman Rd.; Monday 9:30
a.m.-2:45 p.m.; by appointment, 419-259-5270.
Reynolds Corners Library, 4833 Dorr St.; Friday 9:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m.; by appointment, 419-259-5320.
Washington Branch Library, 5560 Harvest Lane; Monday 9 a.m.-noon; walk-in, 419-259-5330.
Genoa Senior Center, 514 Main St., Genoa; March 21 only, 1-3 p.m.; by appointment, 419-855-4491.
Danbury Senior Center, 8470 Main Street, Marblehead; today and March 8 only, 9 a.m. -3 p.m.; by appointment, 419-798-4101.
WSOS Port Clinton Senior Center, 320 East Third St., Port Clinton; Wednesday 9-11 a.m.; by appointment, 419-734-1481.
Ida Rupp Library, 310 Madison Ave., Port Clinton; Thursday 9-11 a.m. and Friday 9-3 a.m.; by appointment, 419-732-3212.
Fort Stephenson Senior Center, 600 West State St., Fremont; Tuesday and Thursday 8:30-11:30 a.m.; by appointment, 419-334-8181.
Fostoria Public Library, 205 Perry St., Fostoria; Thursday, 9 a.m. -3:30 p.m.; by appointment, 419-435-4357.
Bryan Senior Center, 1201 South Portland, Bryan; Monday 9-10:30 a.m.; by appointment, 419-630-0404.
Wood County Senior Center, 305 North Main, Bowling Green; Wednesday 1-4 p.m.; by appointment, 419-353-5661.
Pemberville Public Library, 375 East Front St., Pemberville; Saturday 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m.; by appointment, 419-287-4012.
Way Public Library, 101 East Indiana Ave., Perrysburg; Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday 9 a.m.-noon; by appointment, 419-874-3135, ext. 119.
Rossford Public Library, 720 Dixie Hwy., Rossford; Wednesday noon-3 p.m.; by appointment, 419-666-0924.
Lenawee County Deptartment on Aging, 1040 South Winter St., Suite 3003, Adrian; Monday-Thursday 9 a.m.-noon; by appointment, 517-264-5280.
Community Action Agency Lenawee, 400 West South St.,
Adrian; by appointment, 517-263-7861.