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VOXXI: Why accurate tax records are important for Hispanic health

February 28, 2014 by  

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From VOXXI.com 

By: Hope Gillette

Tax season is upon the country, and for many immigrants –documented or otherwise– filing taxes can be difficult due to language barriers that cause complications and miscommunication during the process. Because of this, PRNewswire indicates Hispanics often are the unknowing perpetrators of tax fraud or deliberately avoid filing taxes all together, and these indiscretions can have a negative impact on health.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is designed to grant health insurance access to millions of people in the United States, and Hispanics, as one of the largest uninsured populations in the country, stand to gain hefty benefits from the reform law. The only catch is that properly filed tax returns are a must for eligibility, and that may put some Hispanics in a difficult position.

Thankfully, a new program has launched to help reduce the fear and reservation associated with tax filing so Hispanics can apply for the insurance they need. The Hispanic Access Foundation (HAF) has partnered with H&R Block tax service to form Prepárate Para Un Futuro Mejor” (Prepare Yourself for a Better Future), a series of free tax preparation workshops designed for Spanish-speaking individuals. The programs will be nationwide and will focus on tax misinformation, ACA eligibility and potential immigration law changes that will also impact how Hispanics file.

“This campaign has helped tens of thousands of Hispanics with concerns about immigration status, past experiences with fraud and inadequate tax preparation,” said in a press release Maite Arce, president and CEO of HAF. “With the rapid expansion of the Hispanic population, it is essential to provide accurate information and access to bilingual, professional tax experts to successfully navigate the United States tax system. With a better understanding of the filing process, we can strengthen our families, communities and nation.”

Hispanics looking to take part in the ACA can use their prior tax returns to verify not only eligibility for coverage, but possible eligibility for tax credits.  The IRS indicates assistance to purchase health insurance comes through the tax filing process as does the penalty assigned should an individual or family decline coverage.

“If you get insurance through the Marketplace, you may be eligible to claim the premium tax credit,” states the agency. “You can elect to have advance payments of the tax credit sent directly to your insurer during 2014, or wait to claim the credit when you file your tax return in 2015. If you choose to have advance payments sent to your insurer, you will have to reconcile the payments on your 2014 tax return, which will be filed in 2015.”

Because many of the tax provisions surrounding the ACA begin this year, now is the time for Hispanics to take advantage of free educational programs so past tax issues aren’t repeated, causing an issue with the ability to purchase or maintain health care coverage.

“Hispanics have the highest uninsured rates of any racial or ethnic group in the country,” said Arce. “While the first step for everyone is to make sure your taxes are in order, for many Hispanics there is a steep learning curve. Not only are we providing education on the tax process, but also on why health insurance is important and how the system operates as a whole.”

Proper tax preparation is not only important to Hispanics when it comes to health insurance, but experts indicate tax returns may soon become an intricate part of immigration reform. Any Hispanics who are in the process of completing documented immigration status may eventually be required to show proof of tax documentation for multiple years before citizenship is granted.

Accurate Tax History Crucial for Hispanics’ Health Care and Immigration Futures

February 26, 2014 by  

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WASHINGTON – For many Hispanics, barriers such as language, fraud and misinformation lead the list of complications they face when it comes to filing their tax return, which is a critical tool for healthcare eligibility and impending immigration reforms. To help address Spanish-speaking taxpayers’ needs for trustworthy and credible help, Hispanic Access Foundation (HAF) expanded its outreach and educational campaign in partnership with H&R Block, the world’s largest consumer tax services provider.

As part of “Prepárate Para Un Futuro Mejor” (Prepare Yourself for a Better Future), nearly 200 free tax education workshops will be held in 18 markets nationwide. These workshops emphasize the importance of building an accurate tax history, provide insight on how to protect against fraud and misinformation in the tax preparation process, and outline how to meet some important requirements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and potential immigration rule changes.

“This campaign has helped tens of thousands of Hispanics with concerns about immigration status, past experiences with fraud and inadequate tax preparation,” said Maite Arce, president and CEO of HAF. “With the rapid expansion of the Hispanic population, it is essential to provide accurate information and access to bilingual, professional tax experts to successfully navigate the United States tax system. With a better understanding of the filing process, we can strengthen our families, communities and nation.”

While there have been many barriers for Hispanics, the Affordable Care Act provides a new incentive for tackling those challenges. Many people who do not have health insurance may be able to receive a subsidy to help with the cost based on their household income and family size. Eligibility for assistance can be determined from an individual’s 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, a key component of the Affordable Care Act is the health insurance exchange — a marketplace where consumers can shop for a health insurance plan.

“Hispanics have the highest uninsured rates of any racial or ethnic group in the country,” said Arce. “While the first step for everyone is to make sure your taxes are in order, for many Hispanics there is a steep learning curve. Not only are we providing education on the tax process, but also on why health insurance is important and how the system operates as a whole.”

In regards to immigration reform, it is expected that both political parties will support a reconciliation of unpaid taxes as a prerequisite on any path to legal residency or citizenship. While plan details are still being discussed, it would 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.

Since 2010, HAF has held over 700 workshops in more than 600 churches and community spaces nationwide. The 2014 campaign will feature workshops through March and another series in the fall.  A complete list of workshop dates and locations is available at www.pormifuturo.org.

Many Latinos still uninformed of Obamacare tax implications

November 18, 2013 by  

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FromVoxxi.com  By Susana G. Baumann

While most Americans are talking about the viability of the new Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, not many understand the tax implications that this new law might have on their next year’s tax returns.

As the most important amend to the federal tax code in the last 20 years, the ACA will determine healthcare benefits and credits eligibility through individual, family and business tax returns. Then, an accurate tax return submission as well as a good tax history can be decisive for many families and businesses that rely on these benefits.

“A tax return is a very important tool for Latinos, regardless of their immigration status. Understanding and filling out a correct tax return each year can determine the possibility of finding a job, buying a house or going to school. It can also mean eligibility for immigration status and now, healthcare benefits,” said Maite Arce, president of Hispanic Access Foundation (HAF).

Through a strategic partnership with H&R Block –the largest source for tax preparation and online tax services–, the organization has concentrated its efforts in providing access to such vital information, now in 17 communities around the country.

High rates of uninsured among Latinos.

According to Arce, Latinos have higher rates of uninsured people than any other minority group in the country. Nearly one in three Hispanics lack health coverage –compared to one in five non-Hispanic Blacks and one in eight Non-Hispanic Whites, says a report from the National Council of La Raza (NCLR).

“Many Latinos feel they don’t know the basics, not only of how a tax return works, but also how the Affordable Care Act might affect their eligibility for tax credits and for fines –in case they decide not to apply for the benefits this year,” she said.

To fix that problem, HAF has partnered this fall on one hand with national non-profits approved as ACA navigators to help families, individuals and businesses apply for the new healthcare benefit. On the other, HAF provides information on both tax implications through a number of workshops conducted around the country.

“Over 30,000 individuals have gone through our workshops to try understanding how tax returns will work for them,” she said.

HAF is now offering these services in 17 communities around the country including Chicago, IL; Dallas, TX; Ft. Worth, TX; Denver, CO; Houston, TX; Los Angeles, CA; Orange County, CA; Boston, MA; Miami/Broward County, FL; New York City Metro; Hudson County, NJ; Providence, RI; McAllen/Brownsville, TX; Phoenix, AZ; Riverside, CA; San Bernardino, CA; and Washington, DC.

Information of Obamacare tax implications for families and individuals

The tax professionals at H&R Block have prepared some common case scenarios with families and individuals at different income levels to help understand the tax implications for each one.

The case scenarios describe uninsured couples with children, couples insured through employment without coverage for their children, couples without children and single people. According to their income level, some people might be eligible for the new expansion of Medicaid also provided through the ACA. So far, 25 states and the District of Columbia have expanded Medicaid, and are accepting applications through their state websites.

The scenarios also describe the type of fines those who decide not to ascribe to the benefits will have to pay. Those fines would be included in their tax calculations next year.

If families or individuals’ income change during the year, it is advisable that they communicate their new situation to the IRS as soon as possible. Income variations might determine differences in tax credit eligibility –in receiving more or less tax credit. Those adjustments will be applied to the amount of taxes they owe or to their refund.

Obamacare and the undocumented

“Although undocumented Hispanics cannot have coverage under the new ACA, they can call our helpline to find out other resources in their communities that provide basic healthcare services,” Arce said.

The HAF president said that the first barrier for the Spanish-speaking population to access services is lack of knowledge of resources in their own communities. The second barrier is trusting the resources that provide the information and the service.

“We work with faith-based organizations that Latinos trust, as pastors and clergy act as third-party credibility,” Arce said. “Latino families are very interested in receiving Affordable Care Act information but there are still delays in understanding the information fully. It will be a slow process for this community,” she anticipates.

A complete list of workshop dates and locations is available at www.pormifuturo.org. For more information, those interested can call their helpline at 800-206-9096.

 

Taxes key for Hispanics on health care, immigration future

May 28, 2013 by  

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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  

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Hispanic Access Foundation provides free tax education workshops around
the country to help Hispanics navigate the U.S. tax system.

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.

 

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