Thursday, January 26, 2012

Free Tax Return preparation for the Elderly


Every year, many older individuals do not file an income tax return because they are not required to do so by the Federal Government. If the individual is a resident of the State of Hawaii, however, he can get a “refundable tax credit” or cash, up to $85, depending on his income.
This is a refund of the 4.5% excise tax that Hawaii consumers pay when buying goods and services. The amount of the refund is based upon the person’s income. The lower the income, the more will be refunded.
Volunteers who come back year after year to help. Toni Tsusaki,
Gwen Johnson and Kyon Suk Florino
Frankly, most don’t bother because tax returns and rules are difficult to understand and comprehend. The tax law is one of the most complicated of all the laws that our government imposes upon its citizens.

Not to worry. If your tax returns are simple and you don’t have complicated investment income, business income or complicated itemized deductions, then you can have the return prepared at no charge to you. The program is put together by the IRS and is called VITA/TCE which stands for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly.

There are many different sites around Hawaii so I’ll introduce you to the site that I’m most familiar with on the Leeward Community College Campus. The site coordinator there is Professor Roy Kamida, who is a CPA. He has a cadre of volunteers who work alongside students at Leeward in preparing tax returns.
Professor Roy Kamida, deep in thought

Students benefit because they are able to obtain class credits and get real life experience in dealing with real life situations. The repeat volunteers keep coming back each year because they want to give back to the community and find that this is a very fulfilling method of doing so.
Each volunteer must pass a test administered by the IRS so that they can be certified to prepare tax returns. Professor Kamida provides 16 hours of class and lab training to help each person prepare for the certification test. He is also on hand to assist when volunteers run into problems while preparing a tax return.
Here is Roy at one of his training sessions
Go here to find other sites around the state that offers free tax preparation services.
Roy gets much help and support from Leeward's faculty as well
as faculty from U.H. West Oahu. Here, you have Della Anderson,
Shelley Ota and Sharon Cox helping to organize the registration.

At Leeward, tax services are available every Saturday morning from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM beginning on February 4 and ending on March 31. They also offer this service on campus every Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1:30 PM to 5:30 PM. This service begins on February 7 and ends on March 22.
Two returning volunteers. Cathleen Gabayan, deep in thought
and Jack Hewitt
Many senior citizens are unable to go down to the Leeward facility because they aren’t physically able to do so. They can get a family member or social worker to collect their tax information and bring it down to the facility and a paper tax return can be prepared to bring back to the taxpayer for signing. For more information, Roy can be contacted at 808-455-0294 Ask him to send you an intake questionaire to start the process.
Two more returning volunteers. Jue Wang and
Victor Punua. Victor cooks and feeds the volunteers after each Saturday
session. I'm sure many return because of his cooking.
List of items needed to have a free tax return prepared:

        Photo Identification for you and your spouse

        Social Security Cards for you, your spouse and dependents

        Birth Dates for you, spouse and dependents

        Wage and earning from all employers Forms W-2, unemployment income 1099-G, retirement income 1099-R, Social Security benefits SSA-1099

        Interest and dividend statements from financial institutions Forms 1099-INT & DIV

        A copy of last year’s federal and Hawaii returns (2010) if available

        Bank Routing Numbers and Account Numbers for direct deposit of refunds, optional

        Other relevant information about your expenses:

                    College tuition, textbooks and required supplies costs and scholarship information

                    Amounts paid for daycare; providers’ addresses and identifying numbers

                    Information for itemized deductions

o   Mortgage interest and real estate taxes paid for your personal residence

o   Charitable contribution receipts

o   Substantial out-of-pocket medical and work-related costs

Let’s do this together. Many don't file because it doesn't make sense to pay a person $100 to do a tax return to get $85 back. With this free service, it works.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Bringing Hula to the East Coast

Sabina Plaza McWilliams... Spreading Aloha

Here's Sabina dancing the hula on her last visit here. This
was at St. Francis West hospice

A childhood friend, Sabina Plaza McWilliams tries to come home to Hawaii once a year with her sister, Juanita Plaza Carter. Sabina lives in Southern Florida while younger sister Juanita lives in Glendale, California.
Here are sisters Juanita and Sabina in
front of St. Francis West Hospice
Sabina entertains at nursing homes in South Florida by dancing the hula with a group called Kamaaina Dancers. The group is based at the Northeast Focal Point Senior Center in Deerfield Beach Florida. This is in the Coral Springs area, just above Fort Lauderdale and below Boca Raton.
Sabina resting in the lobby of St. Francis West Hospice
The group is instructed and choreographed by Donna Flynn who began dancing 40 years ago in Palo Alto, California. She started Kamaaina Dancers over 15 years ago and they perform at least 8 shows a year for senior communities, assisted living facilities and other organizations. What nominal fee they charge goes to the Alzheimer's center.

When dancing in a group like this, the members must dedicate a lot of time to rehearsing, because although all are seasoned dancers, each school or halau has its own style when dancing a number. So the seven members meet once a week. The oldest dancer is 87 years young.

Sabina is the newest member, having been with the group for five years and is the only Hawaii-born member. Most of the members have been to Hawaii for a visit.

We grew up in Kapalama where the Post Office is now situated on King Street.

Sabina was first introduced to hula at Palama Settlement and eventually went on to learn from Kuulei Stibbard on Beretania Street. She also danced with a group from Papakolea where she developed her soft and graceful hand motions.

Sabina dancing to "To You, Sweetheart, Aloha"

After graduating from Farrington High School, she moved to Los Angeles where she performed with a small group in Hollywood and at private functions in Beverly Hills and Bel Aire. She is so happy to be back into hula.