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Free tax clinic offered in Lewis

LEWIS - Filing income tax can be a frustrating and cumbersome task for many people, but one local woman is making tax preparation accessible for everyone.

On Feb. 20, Mary Reynolds will set up shop at the Lewis Town Hall to assist local residents in filing their tax returns. A member of the National Association of Tax Preparers, Reynolds will spend the day lending her expertise to individuals free of charge.

Since 2003, Reynolds has operated a tax preparation service out of her home in Lewis, and frequently offers free or reduced-price returns to customers, especially to students and low-income families.

"It's an ethical thing to me," said Reynolds. "It's a way of returning everything I was able to get from the community."

Reynolds attributes much of her success to New York State's Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities (VESID) program. After an injury left her disabled, training she received through VESID allowed her to return to the workforce and go on to get an Associate's Degree in Business Administration.

In 2007, Reynolds was awarded a grant from the Honeybee Fund to offer free tax preparation to local residents.

"Residents of Lewis are very fortunate to have someone like Mary," said Lewis Supervisor David Blades. "The experience that she has and the way she's applying it to help the people in the community is terrific."

A certified IRS e-filer, Reynolds will offer e-filing, which can allow for tax refunds to be paid within 10-14 days of filing. No refund anticipation loans will be offered, however.

Reynolds said people who do their own taxes, even with the assistance of tax preparation software, can often overlook deductions, or claim deductions they are not actually eligible for. Working with a professional tax preparer, in contrast, can be both effective and fast.

"It takes 15 minutes to do a tax return if you have all the information here in front of you," she said.

In addition to W-2 forms, Reynolds said participants in the clinic should bring statements representing their payments of property and school taxes, as well as mortgage interest and vehicle mileage logged for work purposes, as all of these can affect deductions.

The clinic will run during town hall business hours from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. or later. Walk-ins will be accepted, but anyone wishing to make an appointment may call Reynolds at 873-9257.

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