Where to get free income tax help this year in the Chattanooga area

Urban League offers volunteer assistance at eight area sites

A stack of 1040 Income Tax forms sit on display in a New York Public Library on February 19, 2004. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News.

Daniel Spinks was eager Friday to file his 2022 tax return and begin the process of getting a refund from the Internal Revenue Service.

But the former military employee who now works as a cashier at a local Murphy oil station didn't want to pay a tax preparer to file his tax returns or allow a payday lender to take part of his refund to expedite his payment. So Spinks went to one of the local Volunteer Income Tax Preparation sites to work with local volunteers to prepare his tax return at no cost.

"It's free, and these people really know what they are doing and are very helpful," Spinks said after meeting with a volunteer tax preparer at the Olivet Kingdom Center Building downtown. "I've used this program for the past five years, and they've really helped me out."

Spinks is among thousands of low- and moderate-income individuals or those with disabilities in the Chattanooga area who will benefit from the free tax assistance and preparation offered over the next 10 weeks by IRS-certified volunteers.

The Urban League of Greater Chattanooga and its community partners launched the volunteer program this week at eight area sites to provide free assistance for those filling out their 2022 tax returns. The program is open to individuals and households whose incomes were less than $60,000 last year or to older adults, disabled persons, United Way members or those with limited English-speaking skills.

Last year, the IRS estimated the average taxpayer spent about $300 to have their taxes prepped and filed at paid tax service providers. The Volunteer Income Tax Preparation program helped taxpayers with low to moderate incomes without complicated tax issues to prepare and file their returns at no cost.

The IRS began processing 2022 tax returns last week, and the volunteer program began locally earlier this week after volunteers had been selected and trained over the past couple of months.

Due to tax law changes, such as the elimination of the Advance Child Tax Credit and the end of the Recovery Rebate Credit, many taxpayers will find their refunds lower this year than what they got back from Uncle Sam last year.

The IRS said the average tax refund in 2022 was about $3,000, a 7.5% increase from the previous year, thanks to government tax credits for children, dependent care, charitable deductions and more generous income tax credits.

Although average refunds may be down for many this year, taxpayers will have a few more days to file their returns beyond the usual April 15 deadline, and the IRS said it should have more staff to handle questions and process claims.

Taxpayers have until April 18 this year to file their tax returns, unless they are among the disaster victims provided a later filing deadline in parts of Alabama, Georgia and California and were granted extensions until May 15. Under the Inflation Reduction Act approved by Congress in August, the IRS has added more than 5,000 additional employees to handle telephone calls and in-person assistance at IRS offices.

IRS Acting Commissioner Doug O'Donnell said taxpayers who file their tax returns online with no issues and choose direct deposits of any refunds in their bank accounts should receive their refund within 21 days of the day they file -- similar to previous years.

Persons using the Volunteer Income Tax Preparation program should call in advance to make an appointment at one of the designated times and bring a photo ID or driver's license for each taxpayer, their Social Security card or ITIN card for each individual on the return, all income-related documentation including W-2 statements, 1095-A forms if health insurance was purchased through the Marketplace Exchange, and banking information for direct deposits to speed their refund.

Volunteer Income Tax Preparation sites

The Urban League of Greater Chattanooga is offering free tax preparation help through the Volunteer Income Tax Preparation program at nine area sites through April 17. People are urged to call in advance to make appointments or call the Urban League at 423-756-1762.

— Olivet Kingdom Center Building at 730 M.L. King Blvd., 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Fridays. By appointment only. Call 423-756-1762.

— Southern Adventist University at 5020 Fleming Plaza, Suite 1500 in Collegedale, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. Walk-ins only.

— Northside Neighborhood House at 211 Minor St. in Chattanooga, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays. By appointment only. Call 423-267-2217.

— Second Missionary Baptist Church at 2305 E. Third St., 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays and Saturdays. By appointment only. Call 423-805-2926.

— Soddy-Daisy Senior Center at 190 Depot St. in Soddy-Daisy, 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays. By appointment only. Call 423-332-1702.

— CrossNet Baptist Network at 2707 N. Ocoee St. in Cleveland, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursdays and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. Appointments only. Spanish returns are handled on Saturday. Call 423-476-5493.

— South Pittsburg site at 3098 S. Cedar Ave., 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (CST) Saturday. By appointment only. Call 423-580-0042.

— Orena Humphreys Public Library at 1130 N. Main St. in Whitwell, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (CST) Thursday. By appointment only. Call 423-580-0042.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6340.