With the clock ticking down toward the April 15 income tax deadline, United Way of Santa Barbara County is providing free, bilingual tax preparation centers for qualified individuals, including one for Santa Ynez Valley residents.

The free tax help is available for families and individuals who earned less than $66,000 in 2018, a United Way spokesman said.

For Santa Ynez Valley residents, tax preparation assistance will be available by appointment between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. the Saturdays of March 2, March 9 and April 6 in Room E-1 at Santa Ynez Valley Union High School, 2975 E. Highway 246 in Santa Ynez.

Appointments can be made by calling 805-686-0295.

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance location is staffed by trained, experienced, IRS-certified volunteers who provide free preparation of income tax returns and E-filing.

In 2018, more than 100 individuals volunteering through United Way’s United for Financial Empowerment Partnership prepared more than 2,100 tax returns, securing more than $2.3 million in refunds for participants.

This year, VITA volunteers are looking to ensure even more working families benefit from California’s recently expanded Earned Income Tax Credit, the spokesman said.

The expanded credit has higher income limits for a parent with dependent children, and more working Californians can qualify for the 2018 tax year — for the first time, ages 18 to 24 without dependents and ages 65 and older without dependents are eligible to apply.

Self-employed individuals, 1099 filers and cash earners also may qualify for the EITC, the spokesman said.

Those who don’t need help preparing their tax returns can still take advantage of United Way’s VITA program by e-Filing them for free online at file online by visiting www.unitedwaysb.org/vita.

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This report was compiled by Mike Hodgson, associate editor for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. He can be reached at mhodgson@leecentralcoastnews.com.

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Lee Central Coast Newspapers associate editor Mike Hodgson covers Santa Barbara County government and events and issues in Santa Ynez Valley. Follow him on Twitter @MHodgsonSYVNews.