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Madison County Extension Service: Income Tax assistance at Madison Extension

Over 40 years ago, an accounting student at California State University saw a need to help moderate and low income citizens with tax returns. From that idea, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA) began; training volunteers to process tax returns for low and moderate income people. What started as a small opportunity for college students has expanded into a national program, utilizing volunteers from diverse background and experiences. Every year, volunteers receive training from the IRS and pass a certification test to help prepare tax returns in communities across America. Many collaborations and partnerships have developed to deliver this service. In the Big Bend area, AARP and the United Way are major players working with the IRS to recruit and facilitate training for volunteers. Some VITA sites are located at high schools where students are trained to complete basic returns. Since this volunteer effort fits well with our family financial management programs, the University of Florida Extension Service has worked with VITA for the past three years to facilitate sites across rural north Florida communities. This year, Madison County Extension is once again participating in the VITA program. We have local volunteers who received training, passed certification tests and are now volunteering time to prepare income tax returns. Interested residents can call the Extension office to set up an appointment time. While some tax sites offer a walk in service, we prefer to schedule appointments so people are not waiting for any length of time. Hours will be available Monday through Saturday through the tax season. In addition to face to face preparers, we are participating as a Skype site where citizens talk on camera to the tax preparer at a location in Tallahassee. This method was piloted last year by UF Extension and has proved to be a viable opportunity for rural areas. We do think, however, Madison Extension can accommodate local residents with our local volunteers. Individuals and families with gross incomes less than $53,000 qualify for the free tax service. Participants will be required to bring all tax information, social security cards and a photo ID. Upon arrival, you will be asked to fill out an interview questionnaire which helps guide the tax volunteer through the return process. VITA helps identify tax credits and deductions that residents are eligible to receive which sometimes increases the tax return. Likewise, it may reduce some tax payer’s amount owed to the IRS. Returns are e-filed after the visit and the service is free. Call the Extension office at 973-4138 to make an appointment. The University of Florida Extension/IFAS Extension – Madison County is an Equal Employment Opportunity Institution.

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