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Innovative Connections
Resource Toolkit for January 2011

In This Issue
Upcoming Events
Free Tax Preparation Sites Announced
Tip of the Month: What tax credits do you qualify for?
Upcoming Seminar: Student Loan Consolidation and Repayment Options
Innovative Advice from the Taxpert: RALs
Product Highlight: Tax Time Savings Bonds
Financial Household Stability Class Reminder: Sign up today!
For Our Borrowers
Quick Links
Upcoming Events
Innovative Changes Financial Household Stability Workshops

A 4-part series taught at 2 locations!

* Thursdays, 4-6pm, January 20- February 10 at the New Columbia Opportunity Center, 4610 N Trenton St, Portland 


* Saturdays, 11am-1pm, January 22- February 12 at the Broadway Vantage Apartments Community Room, 8340 NE Broadway, Portland

Register online
(classes can be taken individually or as a series)

Student Loan Consolidation and Repayment Seminar

*Tuesday, February 8th 2011, 4:30-6pm

at the New Columbia Opportunity Center, 4610 N Trenton, Portland

Tax Season begins, Free tax sites open

*January 22

Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability Fix it Fairs

* January 30: Parkrose High School, 12003 NE Shaver Str., Portland

* February 26 :  Jefferson High School, 5210 Kerby Ave, Portland (look out for the CAT workshop at this fair!)

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As January speeds by, there is one thing on everyone's mind at this time of year: TAXES. Where will I do them? How much will I get back? What will I do with my refund? Although we don't do tax preparation at Innovative Changes, we are equipped with knowledge about free tax preparation resources, tax credits available, predatory refund anticipation loans, tax time savings bonds, and tools for budgeting your refund effectively.


We also urge you to sign up for our winter Financial Household Stability Classes and our upcoming seminar on Student Loan Consolidation and Repayment. As always please be in touch with us in the New Year, with any questions, ideas, concerns or feedback.

Let the tax season begin!


Innovative Changes
Free Tax Preparation Sites Announced!

Every year AARP and CASH (Creating Assets, Saving and Hope) Oregon operate a multitude of free tax preparation sites throughout Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington Counties.  These tax sites are staffed with volunteers who have undergone over 40 hours of training so that they can best help you to file your taxes! This is a great service, aiding you to get the most of your taxes without having to pay someone to do it -- more money saved! Within Portland there are tax sites in almost every neighborhood, just make sure you check with the site in advance to see their hours, qualifications and if an appointment is necessary.


Do your taxesUse the AARP tax site location finder to search for a tax site by zip code.


Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA) and El Programa Hispano also have free tax prep services.


To set up an appointment, ask questions and find out more information about free tax preparation, give the CASH Oregon office a call at 503-243-7765, NAYA at (503) 288-8177 ext 319 or El Programa Hispano at (503) 669-8350.


Tip of the Month: What tax credits do you qualify for?

Tax Credit Forms* Send us your tips! Each month we will collect your innovative money management tips -- these could be about resourceful ways you've saved money, thrifty activities you enjoy, helpful insights into living on a tight budget, etc. We will enter these tips into a pool and if selected, your tip will be featured in the next Innovative Connections and you will win a $20.00 Fred Meyer gift card.*

There are many tax credits out there.. Here a few examples of credits that may be applicable to you.


Savings credits: If you are working and making regular contributions to a 401(k), IRA or other savings plan you may qualify for a Savers Credit or Individual Retirement Account Federal Income Deduction.


  Education Credits: If you are attending college or training program or have a child in college, look into the American Opportunity Tax Credit and the Interest on Student Loans Federal Income Deduction.


Employed but Low-income Credits: If you are working, but have a low-income check out the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), the Oregon Earned Income Tax Credit and for the future, the Advanced Earned Income Tax Credit (this may be good way to boost your paycheck throughout the year, but talk to an expert to see if this is right for you).


Family Credits: If you pay child or dependent care expenses you may qualify for a Child Dependent Care Credit. If you work and have child care expense you may be eligible for an Oregon Working Family Child Care Credit.


  There's also an Adoption Tax Credit and a credit for the Elderly or Disabled.


For more information about tax credits ask your tax preparer, contact CASH Oregon at 503-243-7765, NAYA at (503) 288-8177 ext 319, El Programa Hispano at (503) 669-8350, or inquire with the IRS directly by calling at 1-800-829-1040.


Upcoming Seminar: Student Loan Consolidation and Repayment Options

Are past student loans getting in the way of enjoying life? Do you have trouble keeping track of your debt? Does it feel like there is no end to recovering the costs of your education?


Student LoansCome to our seminar and start taking steps to deal with student loan debt! In this workshop participants will learn how to take an inventory of outstanding student loans, keep student loans in good standing, and create a manageable plan for repayment.  Other topics of interest will include: the consequences of student loan default, how to rehabilitate student loans that are in default, the Income Based Repayment plan and its benefits, and the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.


When: Tuesday, February 8th 2011, 4:30-6pm

Where:  New Columbia Opportunity Center, 4610 N Trenton, Portland


To Register: call/email Talia: (503)-943-5620,


The seminar is $5 and fee waivers are available for those who qualify.


Innovative Advice from the Taxpert: RALs

refund calculator* Every month we answer a question or give advice based on a scenario that someone sends us. If you would like financial advice on something you're facing in your life, email Talia at or call her at 503.943.5620. All situations and questions will be kept anonymous.*

Dear Taxpert,   

I am short on cash this month. Tax season is close and I know that I will be getting a big refund, but I am worried I won't get my refund quickly. Should I take out a refund anticipation loan?


- Refund Ready

Dear Refund Ready,


Refund Anticipation Loans, or RALs, are short-term loans that are secured by a tax payer's expected refund and often have very high interest and fees associated with them. When all the costs of a RAL are added up, taxpayers can end up spending more than 10% of their refund just to get the money a few days sooner. RAL lenders often target low-income borrowers who are in a bind. In 2008, Oregon workers lost $23 million in fees paid on RALs, RAC (Refund Anticipation Check) and unnecessary tax preparation fees. All of these extra costs are avoidable. To avoid taking out a RAL here are some tips:

File your taxes electronically to speed up receiving your refund. Free electronic filing is available here:

Consider getting a bank account if you don't have one already. If you opt for direct deposit into your bank account, your refund gets to you faster and you can also avoid check cashing fees.  If you are interested in talking about what kind of bank account will work for you, contact us at Innovative Changes: 503-943-5620.

Visit a free tax preparation site for advice (information above).


 If you receive a special letter from the US Department of Treasury you can sign up for a MyAccountCard Visa, a prepaid debit card. With this low-to-no fee card you can: receive your tax refund faster, keep your refund safe, avoid check cashing and overdraft fees, get cash, add to your card and receive free balance updates online or by calling toll-free anytime. No credit check or prior bank account is required. Visit the site to sign up or find out more about the card. Consider whether you need your refund as soon as possible, or whether you can afford to wait for your refund and benefit from the extra cash that you will receive.


Contact the Taxpayer Advocate Service - If you are suffering an economic hardship and need your refund quickly, the Taxpayer Advocate Service may be able to assist you. Call 1-877-777-4778.


If you do see a RAL as your only option, make sure that you are aware of all the associated fees. Read the fine print, borrow realistically rather than hopefully and come up with a plan for paying it back on time so that you are not slammed with more fees.


To avoid RALs in the future, consider budgeting your tax return to last you throughout the year, setting up a savings plan and looking into the Advanced Earned Income Tax Credit (AEITC). If you qualify for the AEITC (you must be working and have children) you can receive a portion of your tax refund in your paycheck throughout the year, so you receive more month to month. Visit the IRS page here for more information and to see if you are eligible.


Good luck with your taxes!




Product Highlight: Tax Time Savings Bonds

Tax Time Savings BondsThinking about what to do with your extra tax money? Want to invest your money in a safe way? Look into a Tax Time Savings Bond. 

 This is a really easy way to set aside money in savings for yourself or a loved one at no risk.  You can choose to have the bond deducted from your income tax refund while you're doing your taxes. Ask your tax preparer, or use Form 8888 if you're doing your taxes on your own. Tax Time Savings Bonds are part of US Savings Bonds (available for purchase all year round) that are backed by the United States Treasury. You can buy between $50 to $5000 in savings bonds, which will grow at an interest rate of .74%. There are no associated fees (you pay $50 for a $50 savings bond) and you can redeem your bond at a local bank or credit union after 12 months (or wait for up to 30 years!).  

For more information, ask your tax preparer, ask us, or visit the website.


Financial Household Stability Class Reminder

Sign up for our Financial Household Stability classes today! With classes on Making Ends Meet, Budgeting and Saving, Hands-on Banking and Repairing, Building and Protecting Credit-- these classes can be taken individually or as a series and are meant to supply you with tools to organize your finances and plan for a strong financial future! The classes will be taught at two different locations throughout January and February:

Saturdays January 22- February 12, at the Broadway Vantage Apartments, 8340 NE Broadway, Portland from 11am-1pm

Thursdays, January 20- February 10 at the New Columbia Opportunity Center, 4610 N. Trenton St., Portland, from 4pm-6pm


Registration is required and classes are $5 each or $15 for the entire series. Fee waivers are available for those who qualify. To reserve a spot, visit our website, or contact Talia at (503)-943-5620.

For Our Borrowers

Money treeAre You Receiving Your Payment Reminders?

If you chose to receive your payment reminders by email, make sure that they are coming to your inbox and not your junk mail. If you would like to change the way that you receive reminders (by mail, by email, or by phone call) let us know! Call Talia at 503.943.5620 or Carmina at 503.943.5645.

How to Make Your Loan Payment
  • You can mail your payment by check or money order to: o Innovative Changes, 4610 N. Trenton St., Portland, OR 97203
  • You can drop off your payment (check, money order or cash) at the New Columbia Opportunity Center Front Desk- Mon- Fri, 8am-5pm 
    • Please note the building is closed to the public during the lunch hour (12pm-1pm) and is occasionally closed on Fridays for State furlough days.
    • The front desk person has envelopes and is authorized to collect payments on our behalf if we are not in. If you are paying in cash and need change, you must contact Sarah (503.943.5670), Carmina (503.943.5645) or Talia (503.943.5620) in advance to arrange a meeting time. 
  • Carmina can accept payments at our Gresham locationby appointment only on Fridays. Gresham Village Square Community Room, 1625 SE Roberts Dr. Gresham, OR 97080. Call Carmina at 503.449.6299 to set up an appointment. 
Upcoming Changes to Payment Reminders 

We are currently in the process of moving to a new loan software system, so please be patient with us as we get our new systems in order. In the coming weeks, you might notice that you are receiving your payment reminders earlier than usual and that they look a little different than before. Let us know if you have any questions. Also, we hope to be offering an ACH option for loan payments very soon. This means that you can choose to have your loan payment automatically deducted from your bank account each month. Stay tuned for more details!

We Are Here to Help!  


Are you having trouble making your payment this month, or afraid that it might be a little late? Let us know! We understand that unexpected events and expenses can make it hard to keep your finances on track, and Innovative Changes wants to be there for you in such cases. Innovative Changes is flexible and willing to work with our borrowers to satisfy loan obligations, and in return we ask for honest and timely communication. Remember, if you know your payment is going to be late, let us know ahead of time and we might be able to avoid charging a late fee, or sending out a late notice.