As the aim of the Mission Promise Neighborhood is family economic success translating to student achievement, the 20+ partner agencies are always collaborating to devise ways to best serve families. This can mean bringing services directly into the quartet of Mission schools served by the initiative.

One idea for this fall was to tackle immigration issues head-on. This meant La Raza Centro Legal — the Mission Promise Neighborhood’s trusted legal partner — was chosen to lead immigration “mythbuster” information sessions. This community-based organization has a mission to “empower Latino, immigrant and low-income communities of San Francisco to advocate for their civil and human rights.” An advantage of having La Raza Centro Legal take part is that families are given the opportunity to sign up for consultations right on the spot and can have their questions answered. With 85 percent of respondents claiming they were foreign born when asked during the Spring 2016 Mission Promise Neighborhood survey, the need for such information sessions is great.

“We know it’s really important to combat the misinformation in the community. We especially don’t want our families to be taken advantage of based on their fear. We don’t want them going to notarios, who charge fees and may not be able to provide our families the services they need,” explains Mission Promise Neighborhood Family Success Coach Manager Amelia M. Martínez C.

Starting a few weeks back through mid-November, the immigration workshops will be held at the schools, at times convenient for parents’ schedules.

Martínez concludes, “This is another example of the the quick response we bring to the community as needs arise. That’s an integral piece of the work of the Mission Promise Neighborhood.”

____________________________________________________________

About Mission Promise Neighborhood

The Mission Promise Neighborhood is a citywide community partnership that was created to support kids and families living, working and attending school in the Mission District. It brings together schools, colleges, community organizations and community leaders to help kids graduate and families achieve financial stability.

 

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(Note: Story follows in English.) 

Muchas personas en la Comunidad Promesa de la Mission han escuchado que hay unos cambios del Servicio de Impuestos Internos (IRS) acerca de los Números de Identificación de Contribuyente Individual para Extranjeros (ITINs). Estos cambios ocurren porque el Acta para Proteger los Americanos de los de Aumentos de los Impuestos, fue firmada y aprobada como ley el diciembre pasado.

Los números de ITIN contienen nueve dígitos que proveen una manera para los trabajadores indocumentados pagar sus impuestos — uno de los primeros pasos importantes para hacerse legal en los Estados Unidos de América.

MEDA, la agencia principal de la Comunidad Promesa de la Mission, ha preparado el papeleo del IRS (W-7) para cientos de ITINs para miembros de la comunidad inmigrante Latina en el Área de la Bahía de San Francisco. Este proceso por lo general demora tres meses por los procedimientos y el tiempo de trámite del IRS.

Hay una necesidad definitiva para la aclaración de los cambios a los ITINs, para que la desinformación no ocurra en la comunidad.

Tres cosas que cada persona con un ITIN debe saber:

  1. ITINs de 2013-2016: Si su número de ITIN fue emitido desde el año 2013 hasta ahora, no es necesario tomar acciónSu número de ITIN no va a vencer, no vencerá, a menos que no use su número de ITIN por tres años consecutivos de los impuestos.
  2. ITINs de 2012 o antes: Si recibió su número de ITIN en el año 2012 o antes, tendrá que renovar su número de ITIN, basado en el año que su número de ITIN fue emitido (vea la tabla siguiente).
  3. ITIN SPSi necesita renovar su número de ITIN, por favor llame a MEDA ahora mismo al (415) 282-3334 ext. 178 para hacer una cita gratuita. Le sugerimos  a usted que no espere hasta la próxima temporada de los impuestos que empieza en enero de 2017, cuando está muy ocupado en MEDA. Es mejor renovar su número de ITIN antes del fin del año 2016.

Para determinar el año que recibió su número de ITIN, vea la carta original, verde que recibió. La fecha está ubicada en la esquina derecha hacia arriba de la carta, como mostrada en este ejemplo

Si necesita renovar su número de ITIN este año, usted y un estimado 400,000 otros contribuyentes recibirán un aviso del IRS que se ve como este ejemplo. Si su número de ITIN vencerá este año, y si el IRS no tiene su dirección actual, esto sería la única razón que quizás no recibirá la carta. 

Si su número de ITIN vence este año y no lo renovará antes del 31 de diciembre, 2016, puede renovar su número de ITIN cuando haga su declaración de los impuestos en 2017; pero no es recomendable porque esto puede resultar en un retraso de su posible devolución de los impuestos.

Todos los leyes mencionadas aplican a su esposo(a) y sus dependientes quienes ya recibieron sus números de ITIN.

¿Todavía está confundido si su número de ITIN esta por vencer? Por favor contactar a MEDA al (415) 282-3334, ext. 178. El equipo de los impuestos está aquí para ayudarle — sin costo alguno.

Is Your ITIN Expiring, Per New IRS Rules?

Many in the Mission Promise Neighborhood community have heard that there have been changes from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regarding Individual Taxpayer identification Numbers (ITINs). These changes are occurring because of the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act, signed into law last December.

Nine-digit ITIN numbers provide a means for undocumented workers to pay their taxes — an important first step to becoming legal in the United States.  

MEDA, the lead agency of the Mission Promise Neighborhood, has done ITIN paperwork, at no cost, for hundreds of ITINs for the habitually underresourced Latino community in San Francisco’s Mission District. This is generally a three-month process because of IRS procedures.

There is a definite need for clarification of the changes to ITINs, so that misinformation does not occur in the community.

Here are the three things every ITIN holder needs to know:

  1. 2013-2016 ITINs: If your ITIN was issued from 2013 until now, there is no action neededYour ITIN is not expiring, and it will not expire unless you do not use your ITIN for three consecutive taxable years.
  2. 2012 or earlier ITINs: If your ITIN was received in 2012 or earlier, you will have to renew your ITIN, based on the year your ITIN was issued (see table following).ITIN ENG
  3. If you need to renew your ITIN, you should call MEDA right away at (415) 282-3334 ext. 178 for an appointment. You are encouraged to not wait until next tax season that starts in January 2017, when it is very busy at MEDA. It is best to renew your ITIN by the end of 2016.

You can determine the year you received your ITIN by looking at the original, green ITIN letter you received. The date is in the upper right-hand corner of that letter, as shown in this sample

If you need to renew your ITIN this year, you and an estimated 400,000 other taxpayers will receive a notice from the IRS that looks like this sample. The only reason you may not get the letter, if your ITIN is actually expiring this year, is if the IRS does not have your current address.

If your ITIN expires this year and you do not renew your ITIN by December 31, 2016, you will be able to renew your ITIN when you do your taxes in 2017. This is not recommended because this will result in a delay of your possible tax refund. 

All of the above rules apply to your spouses and dependents who have been issued ITINs.

Still unclear if your ITIN is expiring? Please contact MEDA at (415) 282-3334 ext. 178. The MEDA tax team can help.

____________________________________________________________

About Mission Promise Neighborhood

The Mission Promise Neighborhood is a citywide community partnership that was created to support kids and families living, working and attending school in the Mission District. It brings together schools, colleges, community organizations and community leaders to help kids graduate and families achieve financial stability.

Read More

WFD-BDL-Blog 031416

As the largest free tax preparation site in San Francisco, Mission Promise Neighborhood partner MEDA now does over 4,000 returns a year – with millions returned to the low-income community.

It doesn’t stop there.

As clients come to MEDA’s Plaza Adelante to get their taxes done, they are availed of the scope of the nonprofit’s free asset-building services. MEDA can help with housing rentals and purchases. There’s small-business development, including a community loan fund. Those needing a jobcan get a polished resume, training and connections to opportunities. There’s also financial capability, the thread that ties together this service-integration model.

There are also digital literacy classes offered, starting with a basic class where clients learn about internet security and setting up an email. This is certainly surprising, being that the Mission is action-central for all things tech. While it would be easy to conjecture that the Mission is 100 percent connected, too many Mission Promise Neighborhood families use a smartphone solely to make calls.

The data shows the need: a 2014 Mission Promise Neighborhood survey revealed that 46 percent of area residents did not have a computing device and high-speed internet in their home. This inequity needs to be addressed, as a connection at home is vital for doing everything from looking for a job to kids studying for tests.

The good news is that this week starts a new cohort of computer trainees at MEDA’s Digital Opportunity Center. There are two levels – Basic and Intermediate – with placement based on skill level, as determined by Technology Training Coordinator Leo Sosa.

Explains Sosa, “It is exciting to see the faces of our Mission Promise Neighborhood clients as they learn about computers, some for the very first time. It’s like they are coming out of the shadows, with MEDA a safe place for this to happen, surrounded by other community members in the same situation, plus a supportive staff.”

Taking the helm to teach both groups is Five Keys Charter School’s Ivan Hurtado, who has been a familiar face around MEDA’s Plaza Adelante the last few years. (Five Keys maintains a presence in MEDA’s Digital Opportunity Center, with the organization’s Marlon Altan offering GED and ESL classes).

Hurtado teaches these eight-week classes in Spanish, helping his students understand computer terms, which do not always translate well. As Mission Promise Neighborhood clients explore the power of computers, Hurtado helps them understand how the digital world is a way to better their families’ lives. Many clients are immigrants, so they need to understand that tech is for everyone.

For anyone looking to better their skills, there is an open lab on Mondays and Fridays for those without access to a home computer.

As class participants typed away on their keyboards on their first day, it was clear that their lives were in the process of being changed.

If you are a Mission Promise Neighborhood family interested in free computer training, please contact MEDA’s Leo Sosa at (415) 282-3334 ext. 146; tech@medasf.org.

____________________________________________________________

About Mission Promise Neighborhood
The Mission Promise Neighborhood is a citywide community partnership that was created to support kids and families living, working, and attending school in the Mission District. It brings together schools, colleges, community organizations and community leaders to help kids graduate and families achieve financial stability.

Read More

2069-02192016_FTP-ITIN Pilot Program Social Media_blog_640x295px

MEDA Tax Program Manager Max Moy-Borgen received some exciting news when contacted by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) last December. It turns out that MEDA had been chosen for an innovative Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) pilot program – just one of three sites in the nation selected. MEDA is the lead agency of the Mission Promise Neighborhood.

A nine-digit ITIN is a tax-processing number issued by the IRS so that people working in the U.S. can file a federal tax return without a Social Security Number.

Moy-Borgen knew that his years of building four culturally competent Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites in San Francisco had led to this honor, with free tax prep for Mission Promise Neighborhood families a big part of the services offered.

The gist of the pilot program is that MEDA’s status as a Certified Acceptance Agent (CAA) for the IRS has been expanded. This means that whereas before a dependent’s original passport or National ID Card would need to be mailed to the IRS with an ITIN application, photocopies of either of these documents will now be accepted. Before this pilot program, photocopies sufficed solely for primary and secondary taxpayers.

The genesis of this prospective streamlined process is based on the IRS having confidence in MEDA’s best practices around free tax preparation in San Francisco. This includes ITIN preparation, for which MEDA annually assists about 200 clients.

ITIN clients will benefit in two ways:

  • They will now negate the risk of losing their dependents’ original documents – a nightmare situation for anyone. Moy-Borgen has seen such unfortunate incidents in the past, with the IRS claiming they never received a client’s original passport or National ID Card.
  • What is currently a three- to four-month process will now be expedited. The reason is that just one point of contact, a supervisor in the IRS’s Austin, Texas office will be receiving the ITIN applications from MEDA, offering priority to these color-coded applications coming from the organization. Think of it as direct service rather than the possibility of getting lost in a bureaucratic maze.

It’s not surprising that the IRS is looking to streamline its ITIN-application process after two decades of the program’s existence. According to the IRS, in 2010 over 3 million federal tax returns were submitted using ITINs, with those filers paying $870 million in federal income taxes — a direct benefit to the federal coffers.

Explains Moy-Borgen of the need, “We explain to our undocumented Mission Promise Neighborhood clients that ITINs are a path to citizenship, acting as a way to prove that they have been living and working the U.S. ITINs are a means to eventually obtaining a Social Security Number, and no longer being off the radar.”

ITINs can also be used in other ways. Under the U.S. Patriot Act, provisions mandate that financial institutions collect information on their customers’ identities, and an ITIN suffices to open interest-bearing accounts. Also, an ITIN holder can secure a driver’s license in some states. Additionally, an ITIN can be used to establish or improve credit through MEDA’s Secured Credit Card with Self-Help Bank, with financial institutions even starting to use ITIN’s as a way to open credit cards, loans and mortgages.

Moy-Borgen is hoping that with the anticipated success of this pilot program, expansion to VITA sites nationwide will occur next year.

He concludes, “MEDA is honored to be part of this ITIN pilot program and looks forward to working with IRS officials to further the needs of our undocumented clients.”

Are you a Mission Promise Neighborhood family ready to get your ITIN or taxes prepared? Call (415) 282-3334 ext. 178 for your appointment for free tax prep in San Francisco.

Special thanks to the City and County of San Francisco-Human Services AgencyUnited Way of the Bay Area and Bank of the West for helping low-income residents do their taxes at no cost.

____________________________________________________________

About Mission Promise Neighborhood
The Mission Promise Neighborhood is a citywide community partnership that was created to support kids and families living, working, and attending school in the Mission District. It brings together schools, colleges, community organizations and community leaders to help kids graduate and families achieve financial stability.

Read More

FTP-EITC Press Conference-Blog

“Use it or lose it!” Those powerful words from State Board of Equalization Member Fiona Ma, at a press conference held at MEDA yesterday, underscored the importance of getting out the message about the state’s new Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Ma fears that if not enough Californians take advantage of this credit, politicians in Sacramento may not fund the program again.

California’s EITC supplements the federal EITC, but far too many low-income and working-class families are unaware this new credit now exists – and may be missing out on as much as $2,653 added to their 2015 tax refund.

A grouping of local and state elected officials were accompanied by nonprofits United Way of the Bay Area and MEDA at yesterday’s event. MEDA is the lead agency of the Mission Promise Neighborhood.

Executive Director Luis Granados first welcomed everyone to Plaza Adelante, the main venue for a quartet of MEDA VITA sites that now comprise the largest free tax preparation program in San Francisco. Last tax season, 4,000 tax returns were prepared for free, with $4.5 million returned to the community. The demand for free tax preparation remains equally strong this year.

Explained Granados of the power of the EITC, “With some of our families eligible for thousands of dollars of Earned Income Tax Credits, this is a large percentage of their annual household income.”

As an example of the above, MEDA client Karina Acevedo (photo, fourth from left), a resident of the Mission Promise Neighborhood footprint, was on hand to share her experience. Karina first came to MEDA in 2013 to get her taxes prepared for free. MEDA’s tax team corrected an issue from the past, getting Karina a $2,000 tax refund … but there was more work to do.

It seems Karina had credit accounts in collections, rent that had tripled in the local housing crisis, and a son in elementary school with special educational and health needs. The Mission resident was given free one-on-one coaching, opening a Secured Credit Card to rebuild her credit score, sticking to a budget and now having saved thousands, and opening a Kindergarten to College savings account for her son, Chuy. The catalyst for this bettering of her life was simple: she came to a VITA site to get her taxes prepared for free and was made aware of the EITC for which she qualified. Family economic success is now on the horizon for this Mission Promise Neighborhood family.

Karina showed her appreciation for the joint effort that made this all happen by stating, “I want to thank MEDA, the State, the City and United Way of the Bay Area for working together to make a better life possible for my family. I encourage all families to come to MEDA to do their taxes, get EITC credits and access the many other free services available.”

State Treasurer John Chiang knows firsthand the power of savings. Not only was he once a tax law specialist with the IRS, but Chiang explained to the audience today that his father managed to save a few dollars each week, despite the family’s budget being tight. Chiang saw that money grow exponentially over the years, and he now wants other families to harness the power of savings – especially via California’s EITC — to make that occur in their household. Chiang was adamant that leadership must be responsive to make this happen.

EITC Press ConferenceSpeaking on behalf of State Controller Betty Yee, Director of External Affairs John Kessler (photo, right) told of Yee’s strong belief that the state EITC is a game changer, especially as a complement to VITA sites with volunteers well versed in the needs of the low-income community.

San Francisco Treasurer José Cisneros (photo, left) was up next, telling how San Francisco’s own EITC, called Working Families Credit, aims to supplement the federal and state credits. Qualifying low-income families can earn a one-time-only additional credit of $100 if paid via a paper check or $250 if paid by direct deposit. (The program was designed to encourage families to avoid check-cashing fees by opening bank accounts.)

To showcase how their “Earn It! Keep It! Save It!” program is creating family economic success in the region and throughout the state at 200 sites, United Way of the Bay Area Chief Operating Officer Eric McDonnell explained that communities need anchor institutions. McDonnell noted that MEDA’s Plaza Adelante serves as such an anchor institution for San Francisco’s Mission District, thereby ensuring that families have access to all of the services and tools they need to achieve economic stability.

Today’s press conference was a vital step in getting out the word that the California EITC is an important means of fostering fiscal stability for low-income and working-class families. This subject’s importance was indicated by the fact that so many pivotal players in this arena came together today to put forth a unified message.

“It takes a partnership. One voice,” summed up Ma.

Are you a Mission Promise Neighborhood family ready to get all of your EITC tax credits? Call (415) 282-3334 ext. 178 for your appointment for free tax prep in San Francisco.

Special thanks to the City and County of San Francisco-Human Services AgencyUnited Way of the Bay Area and Bank of the West for helping low-income Mission Promise Neighborhood families do their taxes at no cost.

Photo gallery.

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About Mission Promise Neighborhood
The Mission Promise Neighborhood is a citywide community partnership that was created to support kids and families living, working, and attending school in the Mission District. It brings together schools, colleges, community organizations and community leaders to help kids graduate and families achieve financial stability.

Read More

2007-01262016_FTP-Tax Season Room 203 Social Media_blog_640x295px

EITC: those four letters sure mean much to the low-income community of the Mission Promise Neighborhood. The term is so powerful that there’s even a day named for it. That would be “Earned Income Tax Credit Awareness Day,” which is today.

“Earned Income Tax Credit Awareness Day” is the brainchild of the IRS and is a federal strategy to foster a national grassroots movement to ensure those most in need know that EITC is a major tool for asset building.

The background
Enacted in 1975, there have been four legislative expansions of the EITC. In this time of bipartisan strife on the Hill, it is interesting to note that those on both sides of the aisle have championed this safety net that rewards work. Take the fact that three decades ago President Reagan, a conservative, actually proposed an expansion of EITC, knowing its value.

A Center on Budget and Policy Priorities October 2015 report, “EITC and Child Tax Credit Promote Work, Reduce Poverty, and Support Children’s Development, Research Finds” showcased the impact of the EITC.

The study claimed: “These working-family tax credits lifted 9.4 million people out of poverty in 2013, including 5 million children, and made 22 million other people less poor. And by encouraging work, the EITC and CTC have an additional anti-poverty effect not counted in these figures.”

The report also provided data on how the following items had been positively impacted, and are vital to our Mission Promise Neighborhood families:

  • Improved infant and maternal health
  • Better school performance
  • Greater college enrollment
  • Increased work and earnings in the next generation
  • Social Security retirement benefits

U.S. Census data from 2014 show a $75,604 median household income in San Francisco. Conversely, our Mission Promise Neighborhood survey conducted in the same year concluded that 76 percent of respondents in that community made under $35,000 per year, with 90 percent making under $50,000 per year. Most of these families would qualify for the EITC.

The maximum amount of EITC this year is:

  • $6,269 (three or more qualifying children)
  • $5,572 (two qualifying children)
  • $3,373 (one qualifying child)
  • $506 (no qualifying children)

On a statewide level, California now offers Cal EITC, starting with the 2015 filing year. While the income levels for eligibility are much lower than the federal income levels, those who do qualify can possibly get another $2,653 added to their refund.

To meet local need, San Francisco now offers a Working Families Credit, whereby qualifying low-income families can earn a one-time only additional credit of $100 if paid via a paper check or $250 if paid by direct deposit. The program was designed to encourage families to avoid check-cashing fees by opening bank accounts, which MEDA can do for clients who do not have one. MEDA advises all clients to apply, even if they are unsure if they qualify for this credit.

MEDA’s free tax preparation grows
MEDA, the lead agency of the Mission Promise Neighborhood, runs what is now the largest free tax preparation program in San Francisco, with clients seen at Plaza Adelante and three other Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites in the city that the nonprofit oversees.

It’s interesting to note the history of VITA. Back in 1970, Gary Iskowitz was doing graduate work and teaching tax law at Cal State–Northridge, while also working for a tax agency. Iskowitz saw a growing problem with questionable tax preparers scamming low-income people, so he approached the dean at Cal State–Northridge with a plan to give him 10 students to whom he would teach a 24-hour class in tax preparation, at no cost to the university. In return, Iskowitz asked the university to nullify the students’ tuition for the class, as they became volunteers doing free tax returns for low-income community members. People lined up around the block waiting for this free tax preparation service.

Iskowitz’ idea became the success story for what had started in 1969 as a small federal program of the IRS. Decades on, millions now receive free tax prep from volunteers nationwide, with sites ranging from nonprofit social services centers, such as MEDA’s Plaza Adelante in the Mission, to military bases.

At MEDA’s four VITA sites, Tax Program Manager Max Moy-Borgen sees his team of staff and volunteers harness the power of the EITC every day.

Moy-Borgen explains, “With some of our Mission Promise Neighborhood families eligible for over $6,000 from the federal EITC, this is a major percentage of their annual household income. The EITC is a game changer when it comes to family economic success for the low-income community, especially when now supplemented by the new California and San Francisco tax-credit programs.”

Moy-Borgen also sees the gaps for Mission Promise Neighborhood families. For example, undocumented Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) holders are not eligible for such credits. The same goes for cash-income only clients with regards to the Cal EITC only; furthermore; most of the credit usually goes to reduce the client’s self-employment tax burden. For the San Francisco Working Families Credit, you do not qualify without at least one eligible dependent child on your federal income tax return. This combination makes it difficult for some low-income, single clients without dependents to make ends meet, as the income limit and credit amount is significantly reduced without children.

Regardless of their situation, Moy-Borgen’s team is well versed in all IRS situations that pertain to the low-income community, making sure maximum refunds are obtained for Mission Promise Neighborhood clients. This led to over $4.5 million being returned to the community last year … with 2016 looking equally impactful.

Are you a Mission Promise Neighborhood ready to get your EITC tax credits? Call (415) 282-3334 ext. 178 for your appointment for free tax prep in San Francisco.

Special thanks to the City and County of San Francisco-Human Services AgencyUnited Way of the Bay Area and Bank of the West for helping low-income residents do their taxes at no cost.

____________________________________________________________

About Mission Promise Neighborhood
The Mission Promise Neighborhood is a citywide community partnership that was created to support kids and families living, working, and attending school in the Mission District. It brings together schools, colleges, community organizations and community leaders to help kids graduate and families achieve financial stability.

Read More

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