Public Spirit, February 2013

Hello, Public Spirit readers! CoCo trusts you have had an agreeable February—hopefully with a little Valentine’s Day warmth. Well, upward and onward into March! And upward especially. Yes, temperatures will go up, but so will your AmeriCorps experience! March is a jam-packed with AmeriCorps activities, what with AmeriCorps Week and all. But we won’t give too much away in this hello section. Read on to learn more about what AmeriCorps Week entails, the 411 on filing your tax returns, and EMERGE Community Development, the non-profit site highlighted for this month. Happy reading to you!

AmeriCorps Week 2013  - Saturday, March 9 – Saturday, March 16

Dodging Hunger Dodgeball Tournament

Saturday, March 9. Wellstone Community Center, 179 Robie St E, St. Paul. 

11:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

AmeriCorps Week 2013 hits the ground running on Saturday, March 9, with the second annual Dodging Hunger Dodgeball Tournament.

The first Dodging Hunger, which was held during AmeriCorps Week 2012, collected 210 pounds of nonperishable food through the participation of 59 national service members. Register a team of six players (and up to two substitutes) or sign up as a free agent! Please bring a food shelf donation for each team member to benefit the Neighborhood House in St. Paul.

SuperCharge Your Service Training Day

Monday, March 11. Center for Changing Lives, 2400 Park Ave. S., Minneapolis.

Registration begins at 9:00 a.m. See timetable, below.

On Monday, March 11, the ICC is sponsoring its second Super-Charge Your Service training event for members of all AmeriCorps branches. The day will begin at the Center for Changing Lives with registration at 9 a.m. and conclude with a keynote speech from Minnesota Supreme Court Justice, Paul Anderson (he is a former VISTA). The training sessions throughout the day focus on two tracks:  Professional Development and Training and Education (T. Ed.) Talks on Nonprofits. Find the sessions you’re interested in below, and visit Eventbrite to register. Hurry over for the keynote – it’s limited to 100 registrants!

If you register for at least two events, a Chipotle lunch will be provided for you!

 Professional DevelopmentT. Ed. Talks on Nonprofits

9:30am–10:45am: Social Media & Outreach – Stephanie Hogenson, Outreach Specialist at Children’s Defense Fund MN.Education & Youth Development – Eric Billiet & MN Youth Council.

11:00am–12:15pm: Alumni Panel – Facilitated by Kara Balcerzak.Homelessness & Poverty Neeraj Mehta & Ned Moore, Center for Urban & Regional Affairs at UMN.

1:15pm–2:45pm: Budgeting for Your Sanity – Jared Rendell, Thrivent Financial.Criminal Justice System – Sara Davis & Emily Baxter.

3:00pm–4:00pm: Keynote Speaker: MN Supreme Court Justice, Paul Anderson, a former VISTA.

Social Events

AmeriCorps Week also presents several opportunities to network with fellow AmeriCorps members.

Monday, March 11. Beginning at 4:30 p.m.

Republic (Seven Corners Location), 221 Cedar Ave., Minneapolis, MN 55454

Following the keynote on March 11, all are invited to a social and networking hour.

Tuesday, March 12. Beginning at 6:00p.m.

Darby’s Bar and Grill, 315 5th Ave N, Minneapolis, MN 55401

AmeriCorps members will engage in a little friendly competition at Darby’s Trivia Night in Minneapolis. Join your AmeriCorps members for fun trivia and great company!

Service Opportunities

Friday, March 15, Saturday, March 16, and Sunday, March 17.

The week will wrap up with opportunities to serve at a variety of sites around Minnesota. Last year, 190 AmeriCorps members served outside their host sites for 555 hours during AmeriCorps Week! Get involved this year by serving at a site near you!

AmeriCorps Tips: Tax Season

Taxes look gross, but filing them can be an OK process.

Taxes look gross, but filing them can be an OK process.

Tax season is here! Read on to learn about the different returns, where to get free help preparing your tax returns, and how to find resources for preparing your own tax returns.

Will I Have to File a 2012 Return?

The short answer is: yes. Read on as we break it down for you. 

Federal Tax Return

You have to file a tax return unless you are exempt from taxes. If taxes were taken from your money, which is usually the case for those who are employed, or if you earned about $5,900 of taxable cash, then you will have to file a return. Even if you are not required to file a return, you should file one to get a refund of any Federal Income Tax taken from your income.  Some additional, specific examples of when you would have to file a federal return include: if you were self-employed, sold your home, or are entitled to the Earned Income Tax Credit. For a more complete list of determining factors for filing a Federal Income Tax Return click here.

State Tax Return

You must file a Minnesota Form M1, Individual Income Tax Return, if you are a:

  • Minnesota resident required to file a federal income tax return; or
  • Part-year resident or nonresident of Minnesota and you earned a gross income of $9,750 or more in Minnesota. For example: if you are an out-of-state AmeriCorps member earning $9,750 in 2012.
  • If you earned income in other states, you may also be required to file state tax returns for those states.

Property Tax Return

You may be eligible for a property tax refund if you cannot be claimed as a dependent on another individual’s tax return and were:

  • A renter in Minnesota and your total household income for 2012 was less than $56,22
  • A homeowner who owned and lived in your home on January 2, 2013.

If you qualify for a property tax refund you will have to file Form M1PR. If you are a renter, you may receive a CRP, Certificate of Rent Paid, from your landlord. In some cases, you may have to ask for this form from your landlord. This form will most likely be separate from your federal and state tax returns, and the refund that you may receive will be distributed to you separately from your federal and state tax refunds. If you are a homeowner, you will need your Statement of Property Taxes Payable.

When Is the Deadline for Filing a Return?

File your federal and state tax return by April 15, 2013 in order to avoid paying interests and penalties. Your property tax return should be filed by August 15, 2013. If you need additional time to get your taxes filed, you must request an extension. You can file an extension request using tax preparation software or by submitting Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.

Where Can I File My Returns for Free?

There are many places you can go to for free help in preparing your tax returns. But please note that these places may or may not help you actually file your returns. Typically, tax filing agencies offer free filing to individuals who meet certain criteria. You may be eligible for free tax return filing if any of the following are true:

  • You are a senior citizen.
  • You are disabled.
  • You speak limited or no English; or
  • Your income is $30,000 or less for individuals, or $50,000 or less for families.

Click here to find a list of free tax preparation sites near you.

However, keep in mind that filing in paper (you know, not with the internet) is alwaysfree. It just takes a little longer and may require the guidance of a experienced adult.

Don’t worry, little Calcy. Public Spirit will guide you!

Don’t worry, little Calcy. Public Spirit will guide you!

What Are Some Other Tips for Filing My Returns Without A Filing Site?

Some people prefer to file their own taxes. Anyone can e-file with Fillable Forms – electronic versions of the IRS paper forms. Another option for preparing your own taxes is with the Free File tax software that the IRS connects you with (your income must be less than $57,000 to select this option). Free File is a service provided through IRS.gov where participating software companies make their products available for free. Some software companies will also help you file state tax returns. Some examples include: TaxWise, the program that is specifically designed by the IRS, and that a lot of CAP and free tax preparers use; TaxAct; and TurboTax. The last two programs work well, but they charge you a fee if you want to print out a hard copy or save the data. These programs may be worth the extra fees or troubles for people who have more difficult returns to file—i.e. people with any kind of self-employment, itemized deductions, or extra lump sum income, to name a few. Click here to view the list of Free File companies and to find one you are eligible for.

You can also visit your local library for free paper copies of forms and instruction 

Already Filed?

Generally, you can expect the IRS to issue your refund within 21 days after your return has been received. The actual amount of time will depend on whether you filed electronically or by mail, and if you chose to have your refund direct deposited or issued as a check.

You can check the status of your refund on the IRS website. You will need your social security number, filing status (single, married, etc.), and the exact refund amount.

Questions?

If you have further questions regarding your specific situation and filing your return, call the IRS’s live telephone assistance Monday through Friday, 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. at 1-800-829-1040, or visit your local office for face to face tax assistance.

If you have questions about W2 forms, contact your employer. For most AmeriCorps members, this means getting in touch with the person or organization in charge of coordinating your position. Some tax information may be available in yourMyAmeriCorps account.

 

Site Highlight: EMERGE Community Development

 

EMERGE Community Development is a nonprofit organization working to develop human capital by connecting disadvantaged individuals with economic opportunities. Specifically targeting the communities of St. Paul and North/South Minneapolis, EMERGE programming focuses on four areas—workforce development, supportive housing, business ventures, and community development—and addresses the goals of powering social momentum and investing in people through social enterprise. In collaboration with a diverse network of partners in both public and private sectors, the organization serves more than 3,500 low-income individuals a year (89% are people of color and 87% reside within Hennepin County).

1. Workforce Development

The organization was originally founded in 1995 as a staffing agency, with the goal of creating jobs for individuals facing significant barriers to employment. Since then, programs have expanded to include workforce training, adult job placement programs, staffing services, transportation to work sites, and youth employment services.

2. Housing

EMERGE offers “housing first” programs—ranging from rental subsidies, to transitional and permanent supportive housing, to chronically homeless families (in most cases with a parent struggling with mental health or chemical dependency issues). In 2007, EMERGE opened its first permanent supportive housing facility in North Minneapolis, and other supportive housing “villages” have been developed around the Twin Cities since then. All EMERGE housing programs include extensive case management services as well as after-school, school-release, and summer programs for youth.

In addition to traditional “housing first” services, EMERGE runs a Homeless Youth Program and has also created a unique housing model to address the needs of Twin Cities fathers and families. The Fathers And Children Together Program (FACT) places custodial fathers and their children in subsidized transitional housing for up to two years, with the eventual goal of producing fully employed fathers capable of moving into unsubsidized housing.

3 & 4. Business Ventures and Community Development

EMERGE spearheads and supports a variety of social ventures and development projects. Some examples include redeveloping an abandoned property and creating a technology-focused workforce development center.

According to Alyssa Mitchell, an AmeriCorps VISTA member currently serving at EMERGE, the organization as a whole really centers on “creating the expectation in [individuals and families] that they will succeed, and being able to spread that expectation through the community at large. That’s where social change starts.”

AmeriCorps at EMERGE

AmeriCorps VISTA, Alyssa Mitchell, leads a child in an EMERGE enrichment activity.

AmeriCorps VISTA, Alyssa Mitchell, leads a child in an EMERGE enrichment activity.

EMERGE administers its own AmeriCorps VISTA program, which in the past has included as many as 30 members a year. In the 2013-2014 programming year, the program will include 11 VISTA members placed at seven to eight ex-offender serving agencies, focusing on employment and financial literacy outcomes. Four additional AmeriCorps State/National members provide employment navigation assistance at various EMERGE locations, in partnership with the Minnesota Opportunity Corps. Finally, EMERGE supportive housing programs host three more AmeriCorps members from the Minnesota Literacy Council cohort: one VISTA (who is developing a youth mentoring program) and two Summer Reads VISTA members (who provide reading skills support to K-3rd graders).