OKMULGEE, Oklahoma – Tax season is among us now that the holiday season has ended, which can be another stressor to add to the list. Are you still waiting to file? How can you be sure you are getting every penny you should?
On an episode of Mvskoke Radio, Acting Secretary of the Nation and Commerce for the Muscogee Nation Zechariah Harjo spoke about the VITA Tax Program forthcoming to tribal and non-tribal citizens for this upcoming tax-filing season for 2022 on Dec. 28. Harjo has been the primary sponsor of the program for four years now.
The MCN is one of two recipients, along with the Chickasaw Nation, to receive the VITA grant from the Internal Revenue Service out of all applicants’ tribal and non-tribal entities in the state, Harjo said.
“In our region, the Muscogee Nation is one of the largest providers, especially in rural regions outside of Tulsa,” Harjo said.
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance is a free tax filing assistance for citizens making below $59,000 annually per household that Congress established in the 1970s. The VITA program has offered an online filing option, and with that option, the annual income is extended to the maximum of $77,000 per household or return.
“As a federal program, anyone within the nation’s jurisdiction is eligible, as long you meet the income guidelines, come and get your taxes filed for free,” Harjo said.
Harjo said each household composition might be different.
“The term per household is a little bit confusing.”
He said that even if people house together, they may have separate forms, meaning each tax filing form should meet the maximum income threshold for assistance eligibility.
“Per return is probably a better term than per household,” he said.
According to the IRS website, taxpayers can file from Jan. 23 to Apr. 18, giving a three-day extension for submissions.
The IRS urges people to have all the information they need before they file a tax return. Filing a complete and accurate tax return can ensure timely processing and refund delays and the possibility of needing to file an amended tax return.
Gather important documents and organize all documents related to income during 2022. This is especially important for people who may receive one of the various Forms 1099 from banks or other payers reporting unemployment, dividends, pension, annuity, or retirement plan distributions. Most income is taxable and should report correctly to avoid any discrepancies.
Tax filing can be a complicated process. Some tribal citizens may even question the McGirt ruling tax exemption; others may question farming exemptions or even Earned Income Tax Credits.
The IRS suggests that individuals file electronically and provide a direct deposit account to speed up the process. Most taxpayers will receive their refund within 21 days of the electronic filing if everything runs smoothly with their tax return. Taxpayers should check Where’s My Refund? on IRS.gov for their personalized refund status, which will show an updated status by Feb. 18 for most.
IRS cannot issue a refund that includes the Earned Income Tax Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) before mid-February due to the 2015 PATH Act law preventing fraudulent refunds.
During the filing season, VITA will have professionals ready to help by appointment at the MCN Housing building and various outreach trips at multiple community centers across the reservation.
The volunteers are highly qualified and skilled to help, Harjo said.
The program has made visits to Okemah, Muskogee, Tulsa, Glenpool, Sapulpa, and Eufaula during past program years, Harjo said. The River Spirit Casino and OSU-IT campus in Okmulgee are familiar locations for the program.
“The invitation is open to all centers with the capacity to do so and must have Wi-Fi connectivity,” Harjo said.
The Nation is currently searching for a permanent home for the VITA Tax Program and has been since Harjo’s involvement in 2019. “My goal since I came on was to get us to this place,” he said.
Megan Doss will serve as the Site Coordinator, and the services should be entirely housed within the following year. Harjo claims Doss is highly qualified and equipped to run the tax site. He claims that the MCN Tax commission has the capacity and contention to house the VITA Program long-term to assist with Tax services year-round.
To make an appointment for free tax filing through the VITA program, call 918-549-2607. For more information about the filing season, visit www.irs.gov.