News & Events
Income TAXi will service neighborhoods for free
Professionals will help those eligible to file IRS forms
Original article appeared in Buffalo News - March 20, 2008 by Jonathan D. Epstein
Coming soon to a neighborhood near you: the Income TAXi.
A nonprofit coalition of more than 60 organizations Wednesday unveiled a new mobile tax-preparation and financial education service designed to bring free help to low-income people and neighborhoods around Western New York.
The Income TAXi, housed in a bright blue bus that was formerly a library bookmobile, will visit local community centers, after-school programs, employers, libraries and other locations.
Besides preparing taxes free for those earning $40,000 or less, it also will provide year-round financial education, tutoring, workshops, seminars and free screening to see if someone is eligible for public benefits such as food stamps.
Similar services are offered by 112 volunteer tax preparers at 45 free sites around Erie County, but those are fixed locations that consumers must get to. Officials said this may be the first mobile free tax-preparation bus in the state.
"The Income TAXi really is a proposal that's meeting the demands of consumers," said Diane R. Bessel, director of the Creating Assets, Savings & Hope coalition, sponsored by the United Way of Buffalo & Erie County. CASH runs 12 of the other free tax sites locally.
"They've told us repeatedly that getting to the tax sites or services is really difficult," she said. "They have to depend on a friend or a ride. It's also hard to get information and referrals. The idea of the bus is to get the services directly to the people who need them." The 35-foot-long bus features seven computer stations equipped with Lenovo laptops and Internet access, accommodating up to 14 clients at a time if all are couples. The walls are lined with wood shelves and brochure racks, filled with books and pamphlets on various tax and personal finance issues. There are also small yellow packs of crayons and books to keep children busy.
The bus will be staffed and driven by various tax professionals from M&T Bank, Daemen College and the Internal Revenue Service. Visits will be scheduled through Daemen, which is a key sponsor and will be operating the bus program.
It's already booked for City Hall every Wednesday afternoon, and also will go to Springville and Gowanda. Additional relationships are being developed with Roswell Park Cancer Institute and area schools. And it will go into South Buffalo and the East Side, including to the Fruit Belt neighborhood and the Fillmore Avenue area, Bessel said.
This is the latest tax-related effort by CASH, whose mission is to make low-income families more stable by helping them get tax credits and benefits they are entitled to, improving their financial literacy and helping them find affordable housing and build wealth. Formed in 2004 from the merger of the Self-Sufficiency Steering Committee and the Asset Building Coalition of Western New York, CASH includes community groups, government agencies and banks.
"The CASH coalition is working really hard to make sure low-income people get all the eligible benefits they can," said Arlene Kaukus, president of United Way of Buffalo & Erie County. "For low-income families, it's even more difficult to make ends meet."
The former orange, red, and blue bookmobile was provided by the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library, which leased it to CASH for just $1. The Center for Transportation Excellence and We Care Transportation inspected it to make sure it was working properly. Various organizations donated paint, equipment and supplies, while M&T Bank provided some funding, and union workers and volunteers gave their time, including building the desks and shelves. In recognition of the joint effort, a white taxi stripe and the logos of 15 contributing companies and organizations line the sides of the bus.
CASH can be reached at 887-2717.