The Lamar University Community Outreach Program was recently awarded a grant from Entergy Texas to enhance its activities by increasing earned income tax credit (EITC) awareness and education and providing tax preparation services, financial education and economic development.

Through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program, the LU outreach program provides services for individuals and families, students, senior citizens, and the non-English speaking population at several Community Tax Centers in the Golden Triangle. The tax program offers free tax assistance for individuals with low to moderate income ($45,000 and below) who cannot prepare their own tax returns.

Tax preparation services at Community Tax Centers are scheduled every Wednesday and Saturday beginning Feb. 28. Tax services will be offered at the following Beaumont locations: Downtown Beaumont Library at 801 Pearl, Elmo Willard Library at 3570 East Lucas, and Theodore Johns Library at 4255 Fannett Rd. Tax preparation assistance will also be available at Society of St. Vincent de Paul facilities at 921 FM 124 in Winnie and 3730 Farm Rd. 160 N. in Raywood.

Additional tax preparation services for clients who have individual taxpayer identification numbers will be available at Catholic Charities at 2780 Eastex Freeway, Beaumont, and a Free Assisted Self-Service Tax Preparation (F.A.S.T) site located at Workforce Solutions at 320 Green Ave. in Orange.

Trained volunteers from the community, as well as staff and students from Lamar, will assist individuals and families who may qualify for special credits such as the EITC, Child Tax Credit and Credit for the Elderly. Volunteer tax preparers receive training and certification from the Internal Revenue Service. In addition to free tax return preparation assistance, the Community Tax Centers will offer free electronic filing (e-filing).

Individuals taking advantage of the e-file program will receive their refunds in half the time compared to mailed returns and even faster if the refund is deposited directly into a bank account.

“If you have not yet filed your 2011 tax return, please consider filing through one of the Community Tax Centers,” said Elton Payne, Jr., manager for the LU Community Outreach Program. “The e-filing system is as efficient as any qualified tax preparer or tax preparation software. Volunteers are well versed in all confidentiality requirements, and all information will be held in the strictest confidence.”

Walk-in customers are welcome, and interested persons should contact Payne at 409-880-7983 for more information.