Financial Independence Center

Bank on Cowlitz County

Community Overview
Approximately 100,000 residents live in Cowlitz County in the Lower Columbia-Pacific Region of Washington State. This area was hit hard by an economic recession that followed on the heels of the region’s decade-long transition from economic dependence on the logging and fishing industries to lower-paying jobs in the travel and tourism industry.

In an effort to meet the economic needs of the area, the Cowlitz Asset Building Coalition (CABC) was formed to implement a robust strategy designed to address the overall well being of low- and moderate-income families and individuals.

CABC is meeting this area’s economic development challenges through an array of programs, partnerships, and services designed to build knowledge, access tax credits for eligible individuals, increase competencies in financial literacy, improve credit standing, get employment training, and build assets.

Initiative Overview
Bank on Cowlitz County brings together local resources to expand access to first time and second chance accounts to local low- and moderate-income residents, especially working families. The goal of the strategy is to assist the county’s unbanked and underbanked residents achieve greater economic prosperity by connecting them to financial mainstream services, products, and financial education.

This will be achieved through:

  • Promoting available no or low-cost financial services and products
  • Increasing the availability of financial education and credit counseling services to residents
  • Increasing community awareness of potential impacts of residents outside of the financial mainstream
  • Implementing a comprehensive outreach strategy for clients and resources
  • Involving the support of diverse partners, including financial institutions, workforce development agencies, social service, housing agencies, federal, state, and local government agencies, and free-tax preparation assistance sites

To find out more about the Cowlitz Asset Building Coalition or Bank on Cowlitz County Initiative, please their website at: http://cowlitzsaves.org.

Money Smart Financial Education

FDIC Money Smart Financial Education Workshops are an adult education program building knowledge, security and confidence.
Money Smart Classes are open to the public and no pre-registration is required.

Lower Columbia CAP, Cowlitz Asset Building Coalition and Work Source are sponsoring financial education for all adults with the intention of improving and increasing family wealth. This can be accomplished by improving saving habits, managing debt and increasing assets. These group workshops are filled with open discussions and financial education using the Money Smart training materials from the FDIC (Federal Depository Insurance Corporation).

Workshop sessions are held in 8 week cycles and then repeated.The classes can be taken in any order as each is it’s own topic.

For more information call 360-425-3430, 1-800-383-2101 (ext 248) or WorkSource at 360-577-2250.

Earned Income Tax Credit

It’s easier than ever to find out if you qualify for EITC.
The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) sometimes called the Earned Income Credit (EITC), is a refundable federal income tax credit for low-income working individuals and families. Congress originally approved the tax credit legislation in 1975 in part to offset the burden of social security taxes and to provide an incentive to work. When the EITC exceeds the amount of taxes owed, it results in a tax refund to those who claim and qualify for the credit.

To qualify, taxpayers must meet certain requirements and file a tax return, even if they did not earn enough money to be obligated to file a tax return. The EITC has no effect on certain welfare benefits. In most cases, EITC payments will not be used to determine eligibility for Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), food stamps, low-income housing or most Temporary Assistance of Needy Families (TANF) payments.

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a refundable credit for people who work but did not earn high incomes. The EITC is a valuable tool helping eligible taxpayers lower their taxes or receive refunds. The IRS wants all eligible taxpayers to take the credit they deserve.

Created in 1975, EITC helps offset Social Security taxes and provides an incentive for work. It is the federal government’s largest benefits program for working families. More then 22.4 million taxpayers received more $43.7 billion in EITC on their 2006 federal tax returns. It is estimated in Washington State that $81 million in EITC tax credit are left behind and not claimed each year. Don’t miss out. It is your money, come and get it. More than 60 percent of all tax returns claiming EITC are filed during February.

In spite of extensive awareness campaigns by IRS and its partners, the agency estimates that 20 percent more taxpayers may be eligible, but may not be aware of and claim their EITC. This includes people with limited English proficiency, rural residents, Native Americans, people with disabilities and nontraditional families, such as a grandparent raising a grandchild.

There are more than 12,000 free tax preparation sites nationwide. In Cowlitz County, the AARP Tax Aided program provides free tax filing assistance to individuals, families, and seniors. There are several convenient locations with day, evening and free filing available. Filers with a checking or savings account may have their returns in 6 – 10 days. Call 2-1-1 for updated locations, dates, and times.

Taxpayers who qualify for EITC also can get help through IRS’s Free File Program, which offers free electronic filing for do-it-yourselfers with internet access. Taxpayers are encouraged to split their refunds into two or three accounts by sending part of their refund to checking and part to future savings.

Free Tax Preparation

For self filers that just need a computer with internet access, CAP Financial Independence Center is set up for walk-ins, Mon-Fri. 8am-noon & 1pm-4:00.

Work Source in Kelso and Longview Goodwill have computers and internet accessible for self filers Monday-Friday 8:30-4pm.

Beginning February 1st through April 18th AARP free tax aides will be at;

Longview Public Library, 1600 Louisiana Street, Longview on Friday and Saturday; 12:30-4pm.

Fibre Federal Credit Union Admin Building, 796 Commerce Ave., Longview on Tuesdays 4pm-7pm.

Lower Columbia CAP, FID classroom on Tuesday and Thursday 9am-3pm.

To get free assistance or e-file your return, you MUST have the following with you:

  • Social Security cards for ALL names listed on the return. This includes all children.
  • Picture ID for tax payer and spouse (if applicable).
  • All documents relating to income and taxes paid (W2’s, 1099s, real estate tax statement etc.).
  • The original purchase date and costs of any stock sales you will be reporting in 2010.
  • Your tax return for the previous year is also very helpful.
  • If they are doing a direct deposit, need a voided check (able to split the refund 3 ways).
  • If you do not have Social Security card OR a letter from the Social Security Office, AARP Tax-Aides cannot help you.

A pre-tax review is available at Lower Columbia CAP at 1526 Commerce Ave. Longview, WA Monday – Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (review tax documents, review potential credits and refunds for current and past years).

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