LA County to help homeless file income taxes, collect stimulus checks

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday, May 18, to partner with homeless services providers to help homeless individuals file their taxes, hoping to meet federal and state deadlines for stimulus checks.

Supervisor Hilda Solis championed the plan, saying many homeless and formerly homeless individuals don’t have the tax documentation or proper identification they need, not to mention lacking a permanent mailing address.

“People experiencing homelessness face unique challenges resulting from a lack of stable housing, making many processes like filing taxes and collecting stimulus payments inaccessible for many,” Solis said.

The Internal Revenue Service Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program provides free income tax preparation services to households earning less than $57,000 annually.

IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals countywide as part of this program sponsored by the IRS in partnership with the county’s Center for Financial Empowerment.

However, the number of available volunteers is too small to accommodate the county’s need. Solis recommended seeing whether homeless services providers and even county employees could be certified to help, potentially co-locating in homeless shelters, housing sites and Project Roomkey and Homekey sites.

Taking a holistic approach that wraps case management into the process could boost the chance that stimulus checks are effective in helping people get back on a path to a more stable financial situation, Solis suggested.

Supervisor Kathryn Barger said some homeless people may be worried about past tax liabilities, and that the program should take this into consideration in managing outreach and education.

A report is expected back in 60 days.

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