It is a high priority of the probation office to see you learn all that is needed to be able to develop financial strength in order to support yourself and your family (including child support), and if ordered, to pay your court fines and fees, and/or repay your victim. To that end, the information, resources and links below are provided so that you are more successful in completing supervision in a better financial condition than when you started, for everyone's benefit.
Topic areas include public benefits, family/home, consumer information, credit and money management, child support issues, etc..
NOTE: You are formally notified here that all links and information below in areas such as banking, money management, credit, identity theft and protection, frauds and scams, financial assistance, disaster preparedness and relief, consumer information and rights, etc.. are from third-party, outside sources, not our office or agency, and these outside entities are solely responsible for their own content and information or advice. We are making these resources available so you can make your OWN judgment whether or not the information and resources are useful to you.
Disaster assistance through state and Federal (FEMA) resources, and Disaster preparation and planning. Another valuable link is Ready.gov and the State of Texas disaster preparation and response site.
For more resources on helping your family cope with financial challenges Help with Difficult Times from USA.gov covering topics like unemployment, family support, housing, health care/insurance, etc.
Here's an excellent April 2011 document regarding tax guidance for those releasing from prison from the IRS Life Cycle Series.
Tax Assistance through state and national resources. The Internal Revenue Service also makes Low-Income Taxpayer Clinics (LITC) available at select times and sites for low-income and English as a Second Language (ESL) filers.
Contact your local IRS Field Office for forms, assistance and direction.
Also, the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) is an independent organization within the IRS. We help taxpayers who are experiencing economic harm, such as not being able to provide necessities like housing, transportation, or food; taxpayers who are seeking help in resolving problems with the IRS; and those who believe an IRS system or procedure is not working as it should. Here are ten things every taxpayer should know about TAS:
- The Taxpayer Advocate Service is your voice at the IRS.
- Our service is free and tailored to meet your needs.
- You may be eligible for our help if you have tried to resolve your tax problem through normal IRS channels and have gotten nowhere, or you believe an IRS procedure just isn't working as it should.
- The worst thing you can do is nothing at all!
- We help taxpayers whose problems are causing financial difficulty or significant cost, including the cost of professional representation. This includes businesses as well as individuals.
- If you qualify for our help, we’ll do everything we can to get your problem resolved. You will be assigned to one advocate who will be with you at every turn.
- We have at least one local taxpayer advocate office in every state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. You can call your local advocate, whose number is in your phone book and in Pub. 1546, Taxpayer Advocate Service -- Your Voice at the IRS. You can also call our toll-free number at 1-877-777-4778.
- As a taxpayer, you have rights that the IRS must abide by in its dealings with you. Our tax toolkit at www.taxtoolkit.irs.gov can help you understand these rights.
Here's the W-4 Tax Withholding Worksheet and Calculator to help you determine the right amount of federal income tax to withhold in order to avoid owing excessive income taxes at the end of the tax year.
PUBLIC BENEFITS AND SUBSIDIES
All the information, resources, and contacts to access possible local, state, or federal public benefits and subsidies is located at this link within our Public Benefits and Subsidies webpages of this site.
Federal Trade Commission - Knowing your consumer rights
Consumer information from the Federal Reserve (banking, credit, theft and identity protection, mortgages, personal finance, leasing, etc.)
Links to Gasbuddy.com for lowest local gas prices, trip cost calculator, fuel-saving tips, etc. (by Texas City/area), and fueleconomy.gov for finding a fuel efficient car, saving money and fuel, etc.
Also, the Consumer Action Handbook is a great go-to guide for planning a purchase, creating a smart money management plan, getting a handle on your finances, successfully filing a complaint with a company, knowing your consumer rights, etc. It also has great answers about credit cards, bank accounts and managing debt. You can order FREE copies of the Consumer Action Handbook and its Spanish-language counterpart, the Guia del Consumidor, or you can read the handbook online as a PDF.
The new interactive edition of the handbook (2013) features additional resources, including:
- Downloadable templates for a sample complaint letter (MS Word) and social media will (MS Excel).
- Easy access to tools that can help you get updates about product recalls, calculate college costs, check the background of an investment professional, compare health care providers, or conduct a home inventory.
- How-to videos on getting a free credit report, protecting your privacy in everyday life, avoiding job search scams, and more.
- Infographics to help you navigate a purchase, file a consumer complaint, and understand your credit card statement.
CREDIT AND MONEY MANAGEMENT
It's easy to get into debt. It’s much harder to get out of it. Fortunately, there are credit counseling agencies that can help you get your finances in order. They can help you figure out a budget and stick to it while managing your debt and avoiding future financial pitfalls. These tips from USA.Gov can help you choose a good credit counseling agency.
Money tips for All Ages (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) and Money Matters © money mgmt. tool from Consumer Credit Counseling Services.
Learn how to plan and handle your money better during life events, and benefit from use of the resources and tools from the Financial Literacy and Education Commission (plan for college, budget calculators, etc.)
Pre-paid and Debit Cards - know the difference and the risks (FDIC)
Mymoney.gov and Consumer Credit Counseling Center and Investor.gov (Securities/Exchange Commission) calculators (debt payoff, monthly payments, savings, retirement planning, compound interest, etc.), money management tools, and locations by City.
Information about Credit report and credit scores (Federal Reserve)
How to get your one free annual credit report from one of the 3 major credit reporting agencies (FTC)
Federal Trade Commission: advises credit counseling agencies can help you create a plan to tackle your debt and rebuild your credit. You can find a trusted credit counseling agency near you to discuss your financial options, but remember, no one can remove negative information from your credit report. Companies that offer to do this are often running scams. The only way to repair your credit is to consistently make your payments on time.
However, if there is an error on your credit report, you can file a dispute with the major credit agencies to have the information removed. Learn more about credit counseling and how you can rebuild your credit. Also, here's a great link from the Federal Trade Commission on Dealing with Debt.
Here's a very helpful retirement planning site from the Social Security Administration.
Identity Theft: Up to 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. Although nothing can guarantee that you won't become a victim, there are things you can do to help minimize your risk, including:
- Guarding your Social Security number.
- Shredding documents with personal information before disposing of them.
- Using intricate passwords.
- Verifying a source before sharing any personal information.
- Being on the lookout for online scammers and thieves.
- Keeping your purse, wallet, and personal information secure.
The best way to detect identity theft is to monitor your accounts and bank statements each month and check your credit report regularly. Learn more about how to detect identity theft.
If you discover that you are a victim of identity theft, take steps to respond and recover as soon as possible. You can find forms, sample letters, and other tools from the Federal Trade Commission.
Bankruptcy: Declaring personal bankruptcy is often a last resort option for debt management. If you declare bankruptcy, you are granted a court order saying you don’t have to pay off certain debts. However, the effects of filing for bankruptcy are long-lasting. It stays on your credit report for 10 years and can make it hard to get a line of credit, buy a home, or sometimes even get a job. The U.S. Courts put together a video series explaining the bankruptcy process, the relief it offers and how to find legal help you might need. If you’re considering filing for bankruptcy, these videos could help you understand what’s involved. You can also learn more about what's involved in filing for bankruptcy here.
CHILD SUPPORT ISSUES AND INFORMATION
Child Support Reentry Mythbusters (Federal Interagency Reentry Council)
Texas Attorney General website for Child Support which includes information for incarcerated parents, step-by-step guide on modifying orders for reduced payments due to incarceration or loss of income, and interactive site for many actions like payment history, modification issues, online payments, applying for services, etc.
Find the nearest Child Support Office (by zipcode search).