Learn how people in your community are holding on to their money using free Real$ense services. -read more
Freddie and Ollistene Gilbert were back for the third year of Real$ense tax preparation at Super Saturday. Freddie found out about the Real$ense service when he had come to WorkSource looking for a job “and that’s when I found I could get my taxes done for free, too!” he says.
He was so pleased with the results; he came back the next year and again this year. What in particular brought him back for a third time? “They’re very quick and thorough, and they’ll get you the best refund,” he says, then adds with a quick smile, “AND —they’re affordable!” Who doesn’t like free?
Freddie and Ollistene Gilbert
First-time client Judy Fason learned about Real$ense tax service from a friend from work. Both work at the JEA call center. Her friend said casually, “So, have you had your taxes done yet by Real$ense?” Judy admitted that she remembered seeing the Real$ense ad on TV, but hadn’t really thought about having them done at a Real$ense tax site. Her friend suggested that she really should have them done, and that Real$ense would get her an accurate return and correct refund.
Judy decided to come on Super Saturday. She came prepared, signed in and chose the Beehive self-preparation kiosk. And how was her online experience? “Really great!” she enthused. “I enjoyed it, and it wasn’t difficult.” Judy says she’ll be back next year, for sure, and will recommend Real$ense to anyone.
Caleb Mears had the honor of being the first client to complete have his tax return prepared at the annual Real$ense Super Saturday event this year.
What brought him to the Real$ense? “I heard about it from a friend who volunteers’ for Real$ense.” That would be Amy Brinkerhoff, one of our tax preparers working at the WorkSource site neat the Gateway Mall.
This was Caleb’s first visit to Real$ense, but he said it wouldn’t be his last. “I’d definitely recommend this service to anyone,” he said. “It’s good that there’s a free service available.” While at Super Saturday, Caleb also attended the budgeting workshop, which he said he found “very helpful."
Troy Anderson had his taxes prepared by Real$ense for the first time. He was at Gateway Mall and saw a sign at WorkSource. Troy was glad to get some free help because; he had been doing his own returns the last few years, but always got something wrong.
The Real$ense team was able to straighten out his tax problems, and find out exactly what he owed. “I’ve already told a couple of people about Real$ense,” said Troy.
William Brown, a first-time client heard about Tax Blitz Day on April 15 while job hunting at Gateway WorkSource. William saw a flyer “out at Gateway Mall, while I was looking for a job at a WorkSource office.”
He was impressed with the speed in which his return was handled, and the attitudes of the volunteers at Tax Blitz: “I thought it was very professional, very effective, and very efficient” he said.
This was Warren Mahan’s first visit to a Real$ense tax preparation site. “I saw a flyer about Free Tax Prep” and knew we needed help. With three years of joint returns to take care of, this was really good to find out about, he said.
He added that the service was excellent, and that he would definitely recommend Real$ense’s tax preparers to his friends and family. He learned more about the financial education classes that were available to. Next year should be easier for Warren now that he knows Real$ense will be there to help him prepare his taxes.
Recently, CSX held a Financial Education class for interested employees. The liaison for CSX was Leah Brown, who requested the class through the Jacksonville chapter of the
National Association of Black Accountants (http://nabajax.org/). Ms. Brown has been a manager for CSX for seven years, and is currently in the controllers group, where she manages the department’s accounting functions. She is also responsible for developing and implementing policies to decrease the receivable outstanding balance, and monitors over 300 accounts for cash settlement, while developing statistics to determine key areas for improvement.
“This type of class was requested by several CSX employees to provide information on various topics. There was increased interest for information pertaining to credit scores, credit card interest rates and loans. Through the National Association of Black Accountants, NABA, I contacted Real$ense to provide the session,” explained Ms. Brown. Most of the nearly 50 attendees were particularly concerned with learning how to pay off credit card debt early and finding out what they needed to know about types of APRs. Credit scores were also a major point, especially obtaining a free credit report, disputing items on the credit report, how long an item might stay on a report, and how to read a credit report and improve credit scores.
According to Ms. Brown, “Most of the attendees are planning on pulling their credit scores, even for their children (to ensure no one has used their social security numbers). The session provided tools and highlighted areas that the attendees can pursue to resolve issues.” For herself, Ms. Brown stated that while she has no credit issues, the information given during the Real$ense presentation made her aware of changes to credit card statements, and that she would now use the Power Pay
website (www.powerpay.org) (a computer program developed by Utah State University Extension to aid in debt management) for everything.
“I was glad that through NABA and Real$ense I was able to provide this opportunity to the CSX employees,” she
added. “I am currently discussing with Real$ense adding more sessions at CSX in 2012.”
Even people with practical financial knowledge can use a financial education class. Changes in credit card services and fees over the last few years can be confusing. One of the topics for Real$ense financial workshops is understanding credit and credit reports, and it was recently offered to employees at CSX. One of the 50 CSX employees attending, Natalie Rolle, learned that credit cards could be used to help improve personal credit, as well as hurt it.
“I took this workshop to gain more knowledge about taking responsibility for my family’s financial future. We have been working towards building our savings, reducing our debt and building better credit standings.” But what she learned about credit was eye-opening: “that a credit card can help your credit when used properly. I thought of a credit card as debt after my bad college spending spree, so I avoided them since then.”
Ms. Rolle has been with CSX for five years; her current position as a compliance manager, which requires her to handle governmental reporting and audits related to the government funding at CSX. While this financial workshop might not be applicable to her work, it has made a change in how she approaches her personal credit in the future. “The biggest tips I have taken are to continue to avoid those cards that I am preapproved for, and to pull my credit report for free three times a year, instead of using them all one time a year.
“I was glad that I attended the class and would recommend this class to others. I would love to attend sessions that focus on budget and savings.”
A new sense of control over her own credit is not the only thing Ms. Rolle brought away from this workshop— she walked out with a Publix gift card for $25.00 she won in a raffle held during the session. This is a new feature for Real$ense employer-based classes this year, doing an incentive raffle to give away either a grocery or gas card to one lucky attendee. Talk about a double incentive for financial peace of mind!
Jennifer filed her taxes with Real$ense for the first time this year. “I’ll most likely do this every year from now on,” she said. “I didn’t have to pay anything to get my money back and I got a good return. I’m very happy.”
Jennifer saw a commercial on television about Real$ense and thought it was worth a try. In the past she had always paid people to do her taxes, so this was a nice turn of events. “They really knew what they were doing and they were so pleasant,” Jennifer added. “They said the money would be in the bank on the 28th, and sure enough, there it was. I’m going to use my tax money to pay for school. I want to go back to college and study to be a lawyer.”
An awesome ambition, and one that Jennifer has recently learned can be achieved with the help of Real$ense partners, Family Foundations and Northeast Florida Community Action Agency (NFCAA), who administers the IDA (Individual Development Account). With an IDA, when Jennifer saves a dollar, she can get a matched savings of $2 toward her college education.
“I’m glad I found out about Real$ense. I’m telling all my friends about it, too. It was nice, quick, easy, and I didn’t have to wait long at all. It was just a great way to start the New Year!”
Ernest, a fiberglass technician, admits he's a procrastinator. Last year, he paid a large amount of money to get his taxes done on April 15. This year, a friend told him about Real$ense's Tax Blitz Day at Gateway. "It's been a great experience from the moment I walked in here," said Ernest, grinning from ear to ear. "I got a good refund," he said. "It’s taken me less than an hour from the moment I walked in the door. I'll be back next year!”
For the past three years, Arnette has had her income tax return prepared by Real$ense volunteers. “I love Real$ense,” she says. “They even tell you the closest tax site to go to and this year, for the first time, I went to FSCJ North Campus, which is very close to my home.”
Arnette says she tells everyone she sees about Real$ense. “Before I came to Real$ense, I paid someone else $300 for my taxes. I can’t believe I ever did that.”
Arnette qualifies for the EITC as well, and plans to get her car fixed with her refund this year. She needs a new engine. As a contractor who delivers mail, her car is her partner, so this year’s tax refund really came in handy.
One thing Arnette really likes is the fact that her refund is automatically deposited into her bank account. This year, it was supposed to be in the account on January 28 and it came a day early. “They do everything just right at Real$ense. I’m very pleased with them.”