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March 28, 2013 by Jennifer Brandt
WASHINGTON, March 28, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The 2012 tax return will have major impact for Hispanics, as it can be used in determining eligibility for the Affordable Care Act and immigration reforms will likely require individuals to pay any unpaid taxes. An ongoing project from the Hispanic Access Foundation (HAF), in partnership with H&R Block, the world’s largest consumer tax services provider, is seeking to educate Hispanics about the U.S. tax system and prepare them for upcoming changes.
“Prepárate Para Un Futuro Mejor” (Prepare Yourself for a Better Future) includes more than 150 free “Tax Talk” seminars across the nation. It emphasizes the importance of building an accurate tax history, provides tools to protect against fraud and misinformation in the tax preparation process, and outlines how to meet the demands of the Affordable Care Act and potential immigration rule changes.
“Hispanics need to have their taxes in order so they don’t miss out on potential benefits,” said Maite Arce, president of HAF. “Since the project’s launch in 2010, we have helped tens of thousands of Hispanics with tax issues, and now they are even more vigilant about building an accurate tax history.”
Starting in 2014, many people who do not have health insurance may be able to receive a subsidy based on their household income and family size to help with the cost. Eligibility for assistance can be determined from an individual’s 2012 tax return, which can also streamline the insurance plan enrollment process with a health insurance exchange. With the individual mandate requiring nearly everyone to have health insurance in 2014, a key component of Affordable Care Act is the health insurance exchange— a marketplace where consumers can shop for a health insurance plan.
As for immigration reform, it is expected that both political parties will support a reconciliation of unpaid taxes as a prerequisite on the path to legal residency or citizenship. While plan details are still being discussed, it will likely require individuals to submit tax documentation for multiple years – an individual will need to provide an accurate tax history as part of the application process.
“With the rapid expansion of the Latino population, it is essential to provide accurate information and access to bilingual tax experts in order to fully integrate Latinos into the tax system,” said Arce. “Our community wants to contribute our fair share. With a better understanding of the process, we can strengthen our families, communities and nation.”
The free “Tax Talk” seminars are scheduled in multiple cities across the country. A complete list of dates and locations is available at www.pormifuturo.org. For more information about HAF visit www.hispanicaccess.org.
Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/03/28/5299568/taxes-key-for-hispanics-on-health.html#storylink=cpy
It’s Tax Season and April 15 Is Around the Corner Regardless of Immigration Status, We All Must File
March 21, 2013 by Jennifer Brandt
By: Javier Sierra
Remember: the deadline to submit your tax return documents is April 15. And there is a lot at stake for Latinos, regardless of your immigration status.
It’s not only the satisfaction of fulfilling your civic duties. Filing and paying your taxes is also a legal obligation that must be met with strict regularity.
If you are a legal resident, and you fail to declare your taxes, you can be deported. If you are a citizen, it can cost you heavy fines or even a prison term. In any instance, it can make your life very complicated.
“When applying for a loan, the tax return is required in the process. If you want to send your kids to college, the first thing financial aid providers will ask for is the tax return documents for that year,” says Helen Orosz, a tax advisor.
And if you are looking to legalize your immigration status, “it is a requirement to provide proof that you have paid your taxes during the last few years,” she adds.
“If you fail this test, they will not approve your application,” says Orosz. “If anyone wishes to legalize their situation, they need to start paying taxes right now if they have not done so in the past.”
To meet this prerequisite to achieve legal status, the first thing you need to do is request an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Remember this advice especially now that the U.S. Congress is debating immigration reform, which could make the path to legal residency and citizenship much easier for millions of Latinos in the country. But, current and accurate tax documentation will be one of the first prerequisites.
And don’t be afraid to request this crucial number from the IRS. You will have no immigration questions asked.
“The IRS is one the most powerful government agencies in Washington,” says Orosz, “but, it does not share information with Citizenship and Immigration Services. The IRS does not look at or determine immigration eligibility. Their job is to make sure that all tax obligations are met.”
There is another important aspect. Your tax return will be used to determine your situation regarding the Affordable Care Act, which requires that practically all of us have health insurance coverage by 2014.
If you cannot afford health insurance, your tax return this year will help establish your eligibility to receive a government subsidy to fulfill this requisite. But if you are indeed capable of buying this insurance, then the situation changes.
“If you fail to get insurance, then you will have to pay a fine, any amount between $50 and $950,” says Orosz. “Undocumented workers are also liable to pay a fine and won’t be eligible to receive any subsidies until they legalize their situation.”
And finally, your retirement is also at stake. When you pay your taxes, the IRS sets aside contributions to Social Security (your retirement money) and Medicare (medical help for seniors).
If you are an undocumented worker, “you won’t lose that money because the moment you legalize your situation and notify the IRS, you automatically become eligible to receive it,” adds Orosz.
Regardless of your immigration status, you must declare and pay your taxes to make a more prosperous future for your family.
For more bilingual information about your taxes, visit pormifuturo.org or call toll free 800.206.9096.
Javier Sierra comments about issues of national relevance for Latinos.
February 26, 2013 by Jennifer Brandt
By Gabriel Sanchez, Director of Research on 12/05/2012
In the wake of the 2012 presidential election, the Latino vote in states like Colorado has been held up as a critical and influential factor. Latino voters turned out in record high numbers and their 75% vote for President Obama nationally set a new high for a Democratic presidential candidate. While much of the attention has been on changes to immigration policy, Latino voters, like all voters, are paying attention to a wide variety of issues. In Western states like Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Arizona protecting the environment is an issue that Latino voters care very deeply about, and they expect politicians to take action to protect the environment.
Following the election, President Obama and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced a new and balanced approach to energy development in the West, with respect to oil shale development and research. While some had called for unrestricted and unfettered oil shale development, many environmental leaders, including prominent Latino leaders called for a plan that balanced energy needs and protecting the environment. The new plan opens up new land for oil shale development, but only after research is carried out to prove the viability and potential impact on water resources.
Maite Arce, executive director of the Hispanic Access Foundation stated very clearly: “We needed a smart approach to oil shale development and Secretary Salazar deserves credit for making this a priority for Colorado, and for the state’s Latinos, which make up a significant portion of the state’s population and depend on Colorado River and water supplies for their quality of life and economic opportunity. Costly, water-hungry oil shale speculation would put western families’ health and safety at risk.”
According to polling by Latino Decisions and Nuestro Rio, Latino voters in Colorado strongly agree with an approach. When asked about the best approach to oil shale development, 70% of Colorado Latinos said the federal government should require companies to complete research and prove they can produce oil shale in a way that will not harm water and air resources. Only 17% of Latino voters opposed these federal guidelines.
What’s more, when asked how this would impact their possible vote when evaluating two competing candidates, by a 3-to-1 margin, Latino voters in Colorado said that they prefer a candidate who wants oil companies to research the issue and prove it won’t harm the environment. While 60% support a candidate who wants a research first approach, just 20% support a candidate that wants to let oil companies get started right away without the extra review.
In a statement released just after the announcement by Salazar, Colorado Senator Mark Udall presented a view consistent with what Latino voters in Colorado are saying. Udall, who faces re-election in 2014 praised the new decision, saying ”I am glad the Interior Department is taking measured steps to encourage research and development of our oil shale resources. With water being one of our most precious commodities in the West, I have concerns about the potential impacts of commercial oil shale development. Nonetheless, I look forward to seeing this technology explored further.”
Not only do Latino voters support government role in protecting the environment, they rate environmental protection as among the most important issues they face. While issues like the economy and immigration reform tended to dominate the media coverage of Latino voters, when we asked how important protecting the environment was to their vote, almost 40% rated it as “one of the most important issues in 2012″ and another 38% said it was fairly important. Combined, well over 75% of Latino voters in Colorado identify environmental protection as a salient issue to their vote. Only 2% of Latinos said the environment was “not at all important”
According to Andres Ramirez, Director of Nuestro Rio, the connection between Latinos and protecting the environment is clear: “The Colorado River doesn’t just run through the southwest; it runs through our culture and it nourishes our lives.Saving the Colorado River is about protecting our Latino heritage and promoting our future.”
Even beyond Colorado, polling by Latino Decisions found that government involvement in protecting the environment was a top priority for Latino voters in other Western states including Nevada, New Mexico and Arizona. Across all four western states, over 70% of Latino voters saying protecting rivers and lakes is “very important” and an additional 20% or so who say it is “somewhat important.” For nearly all Latino voters across these key battleground states in the West, there is a strong belief that the federal government should play a role in protecting the environment and natural water resources. Further, Latinos are strong supporters of conservation. When asked if we should divert more water out of rivers and lakes so we can use it now, or be more efficient and careful with the water we already have, eight in ten Latino voters favor conservation. By any measure, polling data from Latino Decisions clearly finds Latino voters in Colorado and other Western states to be very strong supporters of protecting the environment.
Gabriel R. Sanchez is an Associate Professor of Political Science and Assistant Director of the RWJF Center for Health Policy at the University of New Mexico, and Research Director for Latino Decisions
February 25, 2013 by Jennifer Brandt
By Javier Sierra
Paying your taxes is not only an obligation for all those working in this country, but also one of the best ways to show your generosity and loyalty to the country that has welcomed you.
Without an efficient tax system, a modern society cannot exist. But, like about everything else in life, there are many out there ready to take advantage of other people’s goodwill and good heart by scamming them through fraudulent tax schemes.
These scams can cost your dearly, not only in money but also in problems with the authorities. That’s why I want to share with you some of the most common tax-related scams and how to defend yourself against them.
The most common one is identity theft. The criminal manages to get a hold of your personal information —such as your social security number (SSN), address and even your bank account information— to file a tax return with the IRS. The criminal then manages to receive the refund that legally belongs to you.
Usually, the victim finds out after filing his or her tax return. If you have been subject to a tax scam, immediately contact the IRS by calling 800-908-4490. The entity or firm that helped you prepare your filling, as long as you trust them completely, can help you in this process.
But prevention is always the best antidote. Never carry your social security card with you. Never give out your SSN or your individual tax identification number (ITIN), unless it is a legal requirement. Check out your credit report at last every 12 months. And never give out your personal information over the phone, fax or email unless you started the initial contact.
In fact, another way of illegally obtaining your personal information is by phishing, a scam usually carried out by unsolicited emails or websites requiring the victim to provide personal or financial information. Remember, the IRS will never contact you via email to request your personal information.
If you receive a suspicious email, do the following: Do not open it. Do not open any attachments. Don’t click on any links. Forward the email to the following IRS email: [email protected] After forwarding it, delete it. Do the same if you get any suspicious texts or SMSs.
Phishing can also be conducted by phone. If you get a call from the IRS and you suspect it can be a scam, request from the caller his or her phone number and his or her IRS badge number. Call the IRS to verify it is a legitimate call. And if you are convinced it is, then call back.
In these times of crisis, tax-related scams have increased remarkably. Some criminals try to convince their victims to file for a rebate, a refund or a tax credit they really are not entitled to.
The great majority of tax preparers are honest people who are only trying to help people fulfill their civic obligations. But too many of them cheat on their clients by promising impossible refunds or by charging them abusive fees for services that are offered by the IRS or its volunteers for free.
The preferred victims of these wolves in sheepskin are seniors and the poor, whom they promise fictitious refunds from their social security payments or end up stealing from them by using deceptive information or inflated numbers in their tax returns.
Beware of flyers or brochures promising free money from the IRS by showing little or no documentation. This scam has been spotted often in churches in the South and mid-West, where criminals take advantage of the goodwill and credibility of pastors and priests.
Remember: taxes are your contribution to the common good. Don’t let these wolves in sheepskin tax your generosity and sense of good citizenship.
For more bilingual information about your taxes, visit pormifuturo.org or call 800-206-9096.
Javier Sierra comments about issues of national interest for Latinos.
February 21, 2013 by Jennifer Brandt
By: Maite Arce
For Latinos, the 2012 tax return presents significant opportunity. In fact, the potential impact of key legislative changes for the nation’s fastest growing population is unprecedented.
Starting in 2014, many people — not just Latinos — who do not have health insurance may be able to receive a subsidy based on their household income and family size to help with the cost. Eligibility for assistance can be determined from an individual’s 2012 tax return, which can also streamline the insurance plan enrollment process with a health insurance exchange. With the individual mandate requiring nearly everyone to have health insurance in 2014, a key component of Affordable Care Act is the health insurance exchange — a marketplace where consumers can shop for a health insurance plan.
Latinos are by far the least insured demographic in the nation. For 2011, the U.S. Census estimated that 30.1 of Latinos are uninsured, compared to just 11.1 percent of whites. This lack of coverage is compounded by the fact that Latinos are 165 percent more likely to live in areas where environmental concerns can lead to greater health complications, according to the American Lung Society.
As for immigration reform, it is expected that both political parties will support a reconciliation of unpaid taxes as a prerequisite on the path to citizenship or legal residency. While plan details are still being discussed, it will likely require individuals to submit tax documentation for multiple years — an individual will need to provide an accurate tax history as part of the application process.
Unauthorized Latinos have long been chided for not filing taxes. But what is often overlooked is that state and local taxes paid in 2010 by households headed by unauthorized immigrants totaled $11.2 billion, according to the Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy.
For the majority of Latinos, however, it’s not a question of not wanting to pay taxes (many do!) but rather a lack of understanding, not having an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), concern about immigration status or fear of the process. In fact, many Latinos who we meet have paid into the system for years, but never filed taxes.
In several of the countries from which our Latino immigrants come, the tax system is a wholly different process or not even enforced at all. Others have worked with unskilled tax preparers who miss even the most obvious deductions or those who add fraudulent deductions to inflate returns. Language barriers only exacerbate these issues.
This is why our campaign, “Prepárate Para Un Futuro Mejor (Prepare for a Better Future),” to educate Latinos on the U.S. tax system has been so successful. This tax season we will hold over 150 free tax seminars in coordination with Latino faith leaders as partners within the community and provide access to bilingual tax experts. Since 2010, we’ve provided tax education and information to over 50,000 Latinos. Our emphasis is on the importance of building an accurate tax history and being a good contributor.
By looking at future economic factors, the importance of this education becomes evident. Latino buying power is expected to reach $1.5 trillion in 2015, according to a recent Nielsen report. The U.S. Census estimated that there are more than 2.3 million Latino business owners contributing more than $350 billion to the nation’s economy.
Furthermore, the Latino population is expected to double to 100 million by 2050, and tax contributions will grow along with it. Affordable health care and immigration acceptance may be incentives for Latinos to file taxes, but the benefit will help our nation’s tax income grow and improve the lives of many.