Guest Columnist: Diann Douglas
Forty 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 backgrounds 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 some communities across the Big Bend, VITA sites are located in libraries and community centers. 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 four years to facilitate sites across rural north Florida communities.
This year, the 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 aren’t waiting for any length of time. Hours will be available Monday through Saturday during the tax season.
Individuals and families with gross incomes less than $63,000 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 a taxpayer’s amount owed to the IRS. Returns are e-filed and clients can select to have their returns direct deposited into a personal checking or savings account. If you are interested in this free service, 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.